Less is not always more, especially when it comes to food! If a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner is your idea of an appetizer, it might be time to look at a new eating plan. Barbara Rolls, PhD, created the Volumetrics Eating Plan, which teaches us how we can eat a lot of high volume, low calorie foods, and virtually stuff ourselves for a handful of calories. Don’t get us wrong; this is not a free ticket to pig out, without learning the importance of reasonable portions. But if you are used to eating a lot of food, and find yourself failing on other diets because the small portions leave you hungry, then this diet may be for you. It is a way to guarantee you will always walk away from the plate feeling satisfied on fewer calories.
Which would you rather have: 1/4 cup of raisins, or 2 cups of grapes? Both have the same amount of calories and nutrition! The difference is that grapes contain a lot of water, which makes them larger and more filling, without adding more calories. That’s the idea behind Volumetrics. Choose foods that have higher water content, and you’ll feel fuller, for fewer calories. You can still have the raisins, but you should limit them, and have grapes more often.
Volumetrics introduces the idea of Energy Density (E.D.) to help us choose the best foods to eat. Energy density is the number of calories a food has, per volume. Water has 0 calories, so it has the lowest E.D. Foods with a high water content generally have a low E.D. If you take away the water, the remaining food will have a higher E.D. because you’ve reduced the size of the food, but not reduced the calories. Fiber also is very low in calories. You will want to choose more foods with a lot of water and fiber content, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, which are about 85 to 90% water. You’ll learn to limit or avoid foods with a higher E.D. such as potato chips, nuts, and crackers. These foods pack a lot of calories into tiny packages, so it’s easy to overeat them.
You won’t live on just fruits and vegetables with this plan. Protein is always important, and you will also include carbs. No foods are taboo, but some choices are always wiser than others. Not all proteins are created equal. Fish and other seafood have a lower E.D. than beef, cheese, or whole eggs. You can eat any of them, but you’ll probably want to choose the surf more often than the turf. Proteins also take longer to digest, so we stay fuller longer. Make sure you get enough. What about bread and pasta? You can have it! Cooked pasta is 65% water, which is about the same as seafood. Bread is 35 to 40% water, so you’ll need to be more careful with it.
The rules seem pretty basic. Higher water content equals Lower Energy Density, and that’s what you want. Lower water content equals a Higher Energy Density, which means more calories, and this is not what you want. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Include moderate amounts of proteins and breads or pasta, choosing the ones that have a lower E.D. And eat fewer foods that have the highest E.D., such as fatty foods.
It sounds really simple so far, right? There’s one more step. With Volumetrics, the E.D. is determined by a simple mathematical equation. Don’t panic! It’s super simple. All you need to know are the calories and gram weight of the food you want to eat. Energy Density = calories / grams. Remember that Lean Cuisine? Let’s check it’s energy density. Most Lean Cuisine dinners weigh about 6 ounces and contain around 300 calories or less. There are 28 grams in once ounce, so the dinner would weigh about 168 grams. 300 calories divided by 168 grams equals an Energy Density of 1.8. This food has a moderate E.D. and you should limit how much you eat. If you do eat one, add some vegetables on the side, and include fruit for dessert.
The shortcut method to E.D.:
* If the food has fewer calories than grams: Eat until you are satisfied, this is a good food choice.
* If the food has the same number of calories as grams, or has up to twice as many calories as grams: Don’t go overboard, these are moderate E.D. foods and you should be moderate with them J
* If there are more than twice as many calories as grams: Be very, very careful! Too many bites, and these may bite you later.
There will be exceptions, such as with beverages, and you should practice a little common sense when it comes to foods that contain a lot of sugar or fat. The Volumetrics book has a great list of foods that are better choices, as well as recipes to make it easy. You’ll quickly learn which food choices are best, and you won’t have to check the E.D. all the time. The plan recommends a balanced diet with plenty of carbs, fiber, moderate protein, and low in fat. Drink lots of water, and exercise regularly.
Fitness Factor: Exercise is encouraged, though not covered in depth in the book. Walking is highly recommended.
Pros: Everything is fresh and healthy, and the plan is easy to figure out. You can eat until you are full.
Cons: You may need to spend more time in the kitchen. There are no forbidden foods, though you will need to limit portions of high calorie, high E.D. foods.
Cost: Moderately expensive. You’ll need to buy a lot of fresh foods and better quality meats, which cost more. You’ll still be able to purchase a lot of inexpensive foods, particularly if you choose produce that is in season, buy local seafood, etc.
Who this diet is best for: For the person that likes to feel full after a meal, doesn’t like to eliminate foods. She also needs to love and accept vegetables into her life.