We think the best way to manage weight and stay healthy is to eat a varied, balanced diet. While we aren’t fans of diets, we know many people do like following them. For some people, diets work better. That’s why we like to break down popular diets to find out what they are and if they are safe and if they can be effective if followed correctly.
The volumetrics diet was devised by Dr. Barbara Rolls, a professor, researcher and director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State Univ. The aim of the diet is to feel full on fewer calories by eating low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, salads and soup. The focus is on what you can eat instead of what you can’t.
You don’t count calories or macronutrients like grams of carbs or fat. Instead, the diet focuses on energy density. Low-energy-density foods have a lot of nutrients per calorie but fewer calories and often are filled with water and fiber. They are things like fruit and vegetables. High-energy-density foods have fewer nutrients per calorie and more calories overall. For instance, 15 potato chips and five cups of popcorn have 160 calories. Chips are a high-energy-density food, while popcorn is a low-energy-density food. The diet gets its name because you eat a larger volume of food while consuming fewer calories.
Nothing is off-limits on the diet. That’s something we always look for when recommending diets. If a diet has a “no-go” list, we think it’s unsustainable and can lead to disordered eating. Instead, it prioritizes eating low-energy-density foods like fruits, vegetables, salads and soup. It tells you to eat less high-energy-density foods like cheese, dessert and fried things.
Instead of having specific amounts to eat, you look at your current diet, track your habits and decide where you can make swaps. By gradually changing out high-energy-density foods for low-energy-density foods, you can actually feel fuller as the diet progresses while making healthy changes and seeing weight loss. You’ll get more fiber and water in your day through your diet without feeling deprived. The only specific guideline calls for is walking 10,000 steps a day. However, you don’t have to do that on day one; you work up to it. So you don’t have to be physically fit to take it up. And you do track what you eat and your weight. The diet also suggests rewarding yourself for your progress with nonfood prizes as you make successful changes or hit goals.
The diet has two drawbacks. You have to figure out food energy density that can have a learning curve and take time. Also, if you like diets, this might not have enough rules for you. That might sound odd. But, if you do well following a diet, this might not feel like a “diet plan” enough for it to work. It doesn’t have much of a rigid structure and is very loose.
We like that the volumetric diet is so heavily focused on fiber- and water-rich foods abundant in nutrients. This wouldn’t be classified as a “crash” diet. It can be considered safe. So if you are interested, it’s certainly one to consider. Of course, you should always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your health routine.