Weight Loss

Eat More and Weigh Less With Volumetrics

This updated Volumetrics plan lets you fill your plate and still drop pounds.

Chris Craymer/Trunk Archive
Youre no diet dummy—your "unrealistic" detector is on high alert. Cut out carbs? Fast on herbal juice blends? Please.

So what a relief to rediscover Volumetrics, a way of eating that just plain makes sense. By pumping up your diet's volume in easy ways (more of that to come), you will not only enjoy yummy foods, but also eat a lot of them and still lose weight.

It all comes down to calories per bite. "By choosing foods that have fewer calories per bite, your portion size grows, but your overall calorie count decreases," explains Barbara Rolls, PhD, the creator of Volumetrics and author of the new book The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. "So you end up with a satisfying amount of food."

Key word: satisfying. Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences at the Pennsylvania State University, has spent 20 years studying the science of satiety—that feeling of fullness at the end of a meal—and how it affects hunger and obesity. Research shows that the amount of food we eat has a greater effect on how full we feel than the number of calories in the food. If you're sated after eating, you're likelier to stick with a diet. The staples of the Volumetrics plan—water-rich foods like brothy soups, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, and fish—not only help control hunger by filling you up, but they also do it on fewer calories. Foods that are high in fat and/or sugar are just the opposite: They're less filling, plus they have more calories per bite.

So the trick is to limit the low-volume foods and eat mostly high-volume ones. Doing so allows you to double, sometimes triple, your portions and still lose weight, says Rolls. But "volumizing" your meals isn't simply about piling veggies next to a serving of lasagna or throwing extra tomato slices or lettuce leaves on your cheeseburger. It's also about packing your recipes with low-density ingredients.

In a study co-authored by Rolls and published in a 2011 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate an entree made up of 25% pureed vegetables—in this case, squash and cauliflower were blended into macaroni and cheese—consumed 360 fewer calories per "volumize" the dish, tricking your brain into thinking you're eating more when in fact you're eating less.

"This simple recipe modification ups your vegetable intake and reduces calorie consumption at the same time," says Rolls.

Pumping up foods with air also works to increase volume and promote satiety. For example, instead of munching on a handful of potato chips, you can fill up on three handfuls of air-popped popcorn for the same number of calories. The benefit of that sort of smart swap became apparent during one of Rolls' studies (ultimately published in 2007 in the journal Appetite). She and her team of researchers served Cheetos to two groups of women. One group got the original Crunchy Cheetos and the other group was given the airy version, Cheetos Puffs. Because the snacks differed in aeration and, therefore, volume, the Puffs group ended up taking in 73% more food, but 21% fewer calories.

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Last Updated: March 14, 2012

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