What is the volumetrics diet?
It’s a diet based on the principle of volume eating in which you can eat more food and still lose weight. Volume eating focuses upon eating “low energy density” foods that are lower in calories per gram. This helps reduce the hunger that individuals experience during a dieting phase.
These low energy density foods are higher in water content and fibre-rich which makes them for satiating than high energy density foods.
The Volumetrics Diet has 4 groups of foods.
Very Low energy density: 0-0.6 calories /gram
- non-starchy fruits e.g. apple, berries, oranges, kiwis, grapes
- non-starchy vegetables e.g. green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, snow peas, leafy green vegetables (spinach, rocket, lettuce, bok choy)
- broths and soups
- non-fat milk
Low energy density: 0.6 – 1.5 calories /gram
- starchy fruit e.g. plantains, bananas
- starchy vegetables e.g. sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, parsnips, corn, peas
- breakfast cereals
- wholegrains e.g. rice, quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, oats, millet, pasta
- lean meats e.g. chicken, white fish, lean beef, kangaroo, pork
- low-fat dairy
- low-fat mixed dishes e.g. spaghetti, chilli
Medium energy density: 1.5 – 4 calories /gram
- Meats: Fatty fish (salmon, trout), regular beef, chicken with skin on
- full-fat dairy e.g. cheese, milk, yoghurt
- reined grains
- low-fat snacks e.g. popcorn, pretzels, corn thins, crackers
- mixed dishes e.g. burgers, pizza, pasta bake
High energy density: 4 – 9 calories /gram
- fats and oils e.g. butter, margarine, canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee
- highly processed foods: fast food, chips, cookies, bakery goods and pastries, lollies
- nuts and seeds
When it comes to the energy density of macronutrients:
- carbohydrates = 4 calories/ gram
- protein = 4 calories /gram
- alcohol = 7 calories / gram
- fat = 9 calories/ gram
Therefore, the Volumetrics diet is predominantly a low-fat diet to reduce calorie intake while maintaining a high volume of food consumed.
What can I eat?
The advice in the volumetric diet is to enjoy very low energy density foods anytime as free foods. For group 2 foods that are low energy density, it is advised that individuals eat reasonable portions and be mindful of servings. For Group 3 foods where energy density is moderate, portions are managed by measuring. For high energy density foods, it is suggested that the foods should be infrequently consumed, and portion sizes should be managed by measuring.
Using these guidelines, it is recommended that individuals eat 3 meals and 1-2 snacks (with dessert considered as a snack) per day. Meals recommended in the book are set at 400 calories for breakfast, 500 calories for lunch, 500 calories for dinner, and no set calories for snacks/desserts.
The author states within her book “the purpose is not to count calories but instead to learn what your meals should look like at that calorie level.” The book, however, includes formulas so that you can calculate how many calories you need a day and includes meal plans for 1600 calories per day and 2000 calories per day.
It is also recommended by the author that all meals and snacks are written down, daily steps are tracked, and individuals weigh themselves daily.
While the Volumetric diet doesn’t explicitly encourage calorie counting, it requires reading calorie contents per serve on a nutrition label and a good understanding of calorie contents of different foods.
- It is safe and evidence based. It effectively creates a calorie deficit by filling up on low energy density foods.
- It includes a variety of healthy foods. It is nutritionally well-balanced.
- Sustainable results – This diet provides education on energy density and doesn’t encourage unsustainable eating habits or excessive exercise.
- Recognition of moods and emotions. Self-reflection can be extremely beneficial firstly understand, then change their eating behaviour and overall dietary patterns.
- Can be adapted for different dietary preferences including halal, kosher, vegetarian, vegan and differing food allergies and intolerances.
- Relies on home-cooked meals. Difficult to do this diet successfully without cooking knowledge, skills and facilities
- Takeaway options are limited on this diet, making this diet difficult for time-poor individuals
- While this diet focuses on filling up on low energy density foods, individuals may still experience hunger and cravings while losing weight. It may not be fully satiating to always choose the lower energy density option.
- Requires a daily written food diary and recommends tracking daily steps and weight. Following the diet closely and tracking these variables is a high time and energy which may be emotionally and mentally burdening for many individuals.
- May create an avoidance of healthy fats such as fatty fish (salmon, trout) nuts, seeds, hummus, avocado, whole egg, olive oil. This diet contrasts the renowned Mediterranean diet that strongly emphasises the consumption of healthy fats for heart health.
How do I get started?
- Increase the water content in your meals in the form of soups and stews. As the weather cools down, adding in a minestrone soup or chicken and vegetable soup can keep you feeling full and warm.
- Bulk cook your favourite lean protein (e.g. white fish, chicken breast, kangaroo, turkey breast). This will make prepping meals easier throughout the week.
- Double the vegetables, legumes or bean in pastas, casseroles, rice dishes and pasta sauces to boost the fibre content and reduce the energy density of the meal.
- Add fruit to breakfast cereals for a touch of sweetness without the added sugars!
- Include a broth or salad at dinner meals. A 2007 study found that consuming a low-energy density soup at the beginning of a lunch meal reduced total energy intake by 20% at lunch time. This was equivalent to 100- 160 calories less at lunch while still feeling full and satisfied. Another great part of the study is that regardless of the type of soup used (vegetable broth, pureed soups or chunky soups), it resulted in a similar effect on energy intake. It should be noted, however, that this study was conducted by the author of this book (Barbara Rolls).
The Volumetrics diet can be helpful or weight loss and maintenance of a healthy weight. Implementing the principle of high-volume foods into your diet can help aid weight loss and lower the hunger that comes along with being in a calorie deficit.
If I’m being honest though, I don’t see a huge difference between this diet and healthy eating principles. I would, however, encourage individuals to consume healthy fats at 1-2 meals or snacks per day in the form of fish (for healthy omega 3 fatty acids), avocado, nut butters, olive oil, nuts or seeds. Fat also plays a role in satiety and does not need to be avoided to be in a calorie deficit.
Volumetric diet FAQs
What are volume foods?
Volume foods are foods that you can eat a high volume of for a relatively low amount of calories. For example, 100g of broccoli is only 34 calories, whereas 100g of Doritos is 520 calories. Of course, these foods are not interchangeable but it shows us how some foods are a lot lower in calories, so we can eat more of them while still losing weight.
Is there an app for the Volumetrics diet?
There are currently no apps that I would recommend you use for the Volumetrics Diet. There is a Volumetrics Diet Plan app available with a single, simplistic meal plan for only one day. While this may be helpful as inspiration, it does not appear like enough information to be helpful. I would recommend grabbing the book and reaching out to a registered dietitian to use the principles of the Volumetric Diet to help create you a tailor-made. You can reach out to me (a registered dietitian) here.
When was the Volumetrics diet created?
The Volumetrics diet was first created by the researcher Barbara Rolls. She initially published the book Volumetrics Weight Control Plan in 2000. It has since been updated in 2005 as The Volumetrics Eating Plan in 2005, and the latest version was in 2012 as the book The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet.
What’s the best book to read about the Volumetrics diet?
Out of the three books written by Barbara Rolls on the Volumetrics Diet, I would recommend grabbing the latest book The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. It includes strategies to use as the supermarket to easily find budget-friendly volume foods and a long list of recipes for you to try. One of the great parts of this book is that it includes before and after versions of recipes in order for you to learn how to adjust your favourite recipes to be Volumetrics diet-friendly.