Volumetrics Diet: What You Need to Know

Volumetrics encourages eating foods like legumes. See more weight loss tips pictures.
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This diet is all about losing weight without feeling hungry. It's based on the concept of "energy density," which means how concentrated the calories are in a portion of food. High energy-density foods provide a large number of calories in a small serving, while low energy-density foods provide a small number of calories in a large serving. Authors Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at Pennsylvania State University, and journalist Robert Barnett maintain that if you eat mostly low energy-density foods, you can eat more, satisfy your hunger, and still lose weight.

For example, you can eat 3 chocolate chip cookies (53 calories each) or, for the same 160 calories, you can eat 11/2 bananas or 2 apples. The fruit will satisfy you more not just because you can eat more of it but because it's high in fiber. Fiber and water both fill you up, while water dilutes calories per portion. The higher the water content and/or the higher the fiber content, the lower the energy density of the food and the more volume the food has, which affects how full you feel. Keep fiber intake high, drink a lot of water, and eat a lot of foods high in water content and low in energy density and you will lose weight, promise the authors.

The Rationale

The principle behind the Volumetrics diet is simple: Eat more foods that have low caloric density and you'll be able to eat more, satisfy your hunger, and still cut back on calories. According to the authors' research, we all tend to eat the same average weight in food every day, no matter how many calories the food contains. The Volumetrics approach is to eat the same volume of food but lower the number of calories by eating foods that are higher in fiber and water. If you do, you'll consume fewer calories and lose weight without that empty feeling in your gut. Once you learn to think about the energy density of foods, you'll be surprised by how much food you can eat. Volumetrics' message: Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and beans, and eat less high-fat, low-nutrient junk foods.

 

Volumetrics Diet Foods and Results

There are no menus that you have to follow and no mandates as to how or when certain foods should be eaten. Instead, Volumetrics contains extensive charts of the energy density (E.D.) and caloric content of one serving of dozens of foods. The charts are arranged from lowest to highest energy density, making it easy to make good low-cal, low-density choices. Though the charts are extensive, you can calculate the E.D. of any food by dividing the number of calories per serving by the weight in grams per serving. A low E.D. means you can eat more of the food; a high E.D. means you should restrict your intake. The authors provide a collection of breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus from which to choose, plus a list of 200-calorie snacks. You'll also find more than 60 pages of recipes for dishes that have low E.D.s. Soup is promoted as an appetite controller, and research is cited showing that eating soup before meals may help control calorie intake due to its high volume, high water content, and low calorie count.

Overall, the diet provides about 20 to 30 percent of calories from fat, 55 percent from carbohydrate, and 15 percent from protein. It also includes 20 to 30 grams of fiber and lots of water--9 cups a day for women and 12 cups a day for men.

Fact or Fiction: What the Experts Say

Rolls, one of the authors of Volumetrics, is an expert in appetite and appetite control and has been researching the topic for years. She has published dozens of scientific papers on the topic and has translated them into a practical diet. According to Liz Ward, M.S., R.D., a nutrition counselor in Reading, Massachusetts, "Volumetrics is all about a dieting philosophy that nutritionists have been preaching for years--choose foods wisely and you can eat more." The authors also make exercise an integral part of the Volumetrics plan, a recommendation about which all experts agree.

Gains and Losses/What's the Damage?

The diet is a healthful one that encourages the consumption of more plant foods -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes. The sample menus and recipes are helpful in following the guidelines. If you are true to the Volumetrics formula for eating, you should feel satisfied and still lose weight.

Dieters have a number of different choices for low-calorie diets. You now have the facts to decide if one is right for you.

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