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Here's Everything You Need to Know about the Volumetrics Diet

The Volumetrics diet is more of an eating pattern that a strict diet, but you do have to pay attention to what you eat.

Have you heard of the Volumetrics diet? It’s not a hard-and-fast “diet” that restricts entire food groups, requires you to fast, or do any ridiculous “cleanses.” The Volumetrics diet came from the theory that you eat the same weight of food each day without regard to how many calories you take in or the breakdown of how much fat, carbohydrates, and protein in your diet. Research has shown that most people eat the same amount, the same volume, the same weight of food, every day. The Volumetrics diet centers on this fact.

Will you lose weight on the Volumetrics eating style? Most likely, yes. Is it an overall healthy diet, though? Also yes. In fact, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Volumetrics diet as number 5 in Best Diets Overall out of forty diets that were analyzed by a panel of health and nutrition experts.

The Volumetrics diet was created by Barbara Rolls, PhD., as a healthy eating approach that focuses on helping people feel full while concentrating on choosing a wide variety of nutrient-dense, but not calorie-dense, foods. The key component of this diet is to fill up on a larger volume of food that is low in calories, meaning you are physically eating more. It’s not a “quick fix diet” that will have you dropping weight incredibly fast. It’s more of a long-term eating pattern that lets you eat more and still lose weight. You feel fuller with fewer calories but a physically larger amount of food.

One excellent attribute of this diet is that no foods are off-limits. You do have to think about energy density when you make your food choices, but this is an easy concept to grasp and put into action. Energy density is the amount of energy (measured in calories) in a certain portion of food. Energy-dense foods are items that have a lot of calories in a very small amount of food (think calories per bite). Foods that have low energy-density provide fewer calories in a large volume. An example: a fun-size Snickers bar contains 80 calories and can be eaten in two bites, whereas you could eat two large cucumbers for about 90 calories. Another example: you could eat four whole cups of asparagus for 107 calories or only 1/2 a small order of french fries from McDonald’s for about 112 calories (without ketchup).

The Volumetrics diet also centers on foods that contain a lot of water, like most vegetables and fruits because they make you feel full on fewer calories since water adds weight to food but no calories. Experts also say that you feel fuller and more satisfied off of solid foods than liquids. So, downing a lot of H2O just won’t be enough to make you feel full, but consuming a great deal of water-rich foods will.

The Volumetrics diet creator Barbara Rolls established four food categories, described here:

Category 1: Very-low-density foods (also called “anytime” foods) — non-starchy vegetables and fruits (basically all vegetables except potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and winter squash), broth-based soups, and nonfat milk.

Category 2: Low-density foods, including reasonably-sized portions of starchy vegetables and fruits, cereals, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and some low-fat mixed dishes (think chili or enchiladas).

Category 3: Medium-density foods — small portions of higher-fat meats, full-fat cheeses, refined breads, desserts, baked goods and pastries, pizza, pretzels, salad dressing, and ice cream.

Category 4: High-density foods — sparing portions of fried foods, candy, cookies, crackers, chips, nuts, and fats (such as butter and oil).

The idea is to eat a lot from categories one and two, eat small amounts of category three, and try to keep choices in category four to a minimum. Each day you eat three meals, two snacks, and dessert. You decide how strictly you want to adhere to the diet, so its flexibility is a benefit.

The Bottom Line

This eating pattern is easy to follow, encourages you to eat lots of fruits and vegetables that are full of beneficial nutrients, lets you eat intuitively, and keeps you full and satisfied.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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