Posted on Feb 09, 2024, 3 p.m.
Have you heard of volume eating? It is not a new concept, people have been trying to use this “little trick” for decades, but it is making another debut on social media. Volume eating is the practice of eating lots of certain types of foods to lose weight, specifically loading up on lots of low-calorie nutrient-dense food. Some people call it Volumetrics. While it may have sustainable pros, it is not without cons and nuances.
The idea behind this concept is that it allows you to eat more without having a high-calorie intake so that you fill your stomach and have less room for foods that can ruin weight loss plans. Ideal foods are to be eaten in high volume and those that should be eaten in moderation are considered to be low volume foods.
High-volume foods are typically low-calorie nutrient-dense whole foods rich in water and fiber such as lettuce, zucchini, watermelon, mushrooms, broccoli, citrus spinach, cucumber, celery, bananas, berries, pears, legumes, peaches, whole grains, grapes, and egg whites. Low-volume foods are more calorically dense and range from dried fruits to honey, maple syrup, and oils, as well as nuts, nut butters, dark chocolate, desserts, and processed or sugar-sweetened foods/beverages.
Volume eating can assist in weight loss if adhered to, but the barrier to an effective diet in weight loss is feeling truly satisfied after eating a meal and feeling restricted in what you are eating. But, with proper planning, volume eating can promote greater nutrient variety in the diet, especially for those who weren’t previously eating many fruits and vegetables. If you adhere to volume eating, by default, it helps you avoid eating less healthy options and high-calorie foods like fast food, baked goods, junk food, and sweets.
However, volume eating is only healthy when done correctly, and you are meeting all of your nutrient needs. People can get hung up on choosing the lowest calorie option available, even if that item compromises the quality of their diet. For example, diet soda often contains zero calories and technically may be perceived as being more suitable in comparison to orange juice. But that is not true, diet soda provides absolutely no nutritional value at all while orange juice provides folate, potassium, vitamin C, antioxidants, and other beneficial micronutrients.
Being full is only one part of feeling satisfied, food must contain flavor and enjoyment to make any meal plan sustainable over the long term. If you are focusing on eating a lot of one food because it is low in calories, you can get bored and find yourself craving high-calorie foods, which is dangerous because it can lead to cravings and binge eating.
You need to keep in mind that low-calorie options should not always override nutrient density, being mindful of this can also help avoid cravings while making sure that your body is getting everything it needs. Completely depriving oneself of everything “naughty” is often behind diet disaster. You do not have to completely avoid fats, carbs, and many other favorites, the key is moderation. For example, adding a splash or two of olive oil along with a variety of herbs and spices can be part of any healthy meal plan to help you switch up flavors and avoid boredom.
To make your plate look full you could swap out smaller less nutrient-dense options for larger more nutritious choices such as adding peppers and onions to a rice pilaf to make the portion look larger than it is. Add lots of veggies to a risotto to extend the portion with fewer calories. Try adding some roasted carrots, peppers, and Brussels sprouts with those potatoes, or better still swap out some of the potatoes with cauliflower to add volume and nutrients with fewer calories.
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower are nutrient-dense and contain lots of fiber which can help you feel full for longer. The idea is to add more color to your plate, the more brightly colored fruits and veggies you add to your dish, the more nutrients you are likely to add to your meal. Eating the rainbow provides a bigger volume of food and fewer calories, helping you to avoid processed foods or heavier starches.
Eating all vegetables could mean that you may be getting insufficient amounts of protein. For example, if you are only eating mushrooms, cabbage, cucumbers, and watermelon, you can find yourself becoming deficient in certain vitamins, minerals, and protein. It is about finding balance, you need to make sure that you are taking in enough calories, vitamins, minerals, and protein to fuel your body and keep your metabolism running properly.
This diet while being sustainable is also fairly restrictive and requires significant time to find recipes, plan meals, and calculate calorie density. You also need to plan and prepare your meals and snacks at home. Keeping a food journal may be beneficial to help you keep track of what you are eating, as well as recipes and ideas to help you reach long-term goals.
The bottom line is that diet culture and social media promote achieving health as being solely based on losing weight, however, this often leads to an unhealthy cycle of restrictive eating, obsessive thoughts, overeating, binging, and feelings of shame and guilt. Weight loss can be hard, sustaining weight loss has been shown to be more effective by making healthful lifestyle changes.
Volume eating pushes you to be more aware of what you are eating and could be beneficial to weight loss if done right and adhered to, but it isn’t the only way to lose weight. Should you be interested in learning more about this trend, consult with your health care provider or licensed registered dietitian who can answer your questions and help you design a sustainable eating plan that works for you and your lifestyle; don't be surprised if it is not volume eating.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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T.W. at WHN