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Volumetrics Diet — What You Need to Know
Updated on September 13, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
Volumetrics Diet — What You Need to Know

The Volumetrics diet is not just another weight loss plan. It’s a lifestyle choice that encourages you to choose healthier, filling foods with fewer calories. With this eating plan, you can lose weight while still eating a decent volume of food.

Dr. Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University, developed this diet to revolutionize weight loss by prioritizing satiation over restriction.

Because of its non-restrictive and flexible approach, the Volume diet has gained popularity among dietitians and weight loss enthusiasts.

If you've had it with constantly feeling hungry while dieting, the Volumetrics diet could be your guide to more sustainable, healthy weight loss.

We asked Elise Harlow, a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences, to help explain the Volumetric diet’s concept, benefits, and how to effectively incorporate it into your daily life.


The Volumetrics diet encourages choosing healthier, more satiating foods that are low in calories instead of restricting intake. It was developed by nutritionist Dr. Barbara Rolls.

Volumetrics Diet — What You Need to Know 2

What is the Volumetrics Diet?

The Volumetrics diet is an eating plan that focuses on food's energy density and nutrient density. According to it, high-energy-density foods have more calorie content per serving than low-energy-density foods.

Additionally, high-nutrient-dense foods are higher in nutrients but lower in calories in a given portion than low-nutrient-dense foods.

The Volumetric meal plan highlights eating low-calorie-dense, high-nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

It also encourages choosing meals that are rich in both fiber and water. Fiber and water-rich foods are more likely to be filling but have fewer calories.

On the other hand, the meal plan advises minimizing foods high in unhealthy fats or sugar and low in water content. These foods are likely high-energy dense.


The Volumetric meal prioritizes low-calorie-dense, high-nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. It also encourages eating foods with high fiber and water content.

How Does The Volumetrics Diet Work?

The Volumetrics diet aims to make you feel full by eating low-calorie dense foods but high in volume. Low-calorie dense foods tend to have a low calorie-to-weight ratio.

Most of the time, these foods have a high water and fiber content. They can fill you up without drastically adding to your calorie intake. They can contribute to reducing your overall caloric intake. 

Over time, a low-calorie-dense diet can help you achieve a calorie deficit, which is vital to weight loss. You can achieve a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than your body burns.1

But the thrilling part about the Volumetrics is you don’t need to go hungry to lower your calorie intake. You can still have large, filling meals by choosing low-calorie-dense foods.

The diet plan permits three meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and two or three snacks throughout the day.


The Volumetrics diet helps you lose weight through a calorie deficit. It can help you achieve a calorie deficit by promoting low-calorie-dense foods, which are satiating but low in calories.

What Are The Potential Health Benefits of The Volumetrics Diet?

The Volumetrics diet can improve your overall health in many other ways. Here are some of the potential health benefits of the Volumetrics diet.

Aids in weight loss

The Volumetrics diet can help you lose weight since it promotes eating more low-energy-dense foods. This allows you to eat bigger portions while maintaining a calorie deficit.

Studies show that eating less energy-dense foods is effective for weight loss.2 It can also help you maintain a healthy weight since sticking to the diet is easier.


The Volumetrics diet aids in weight loss by helping you achieve a calorie deficit. You can consume fewer calories and create a calorie deficit by eating foods low in energy density.

Lowers the risk of heart disease

Studies say that a change in diet and cutting down on excess calories may prevent cardiovascular diseases.3 

Health experts include the Volumetrics diet in the list of healthy diets for lowering your risk of heart disease.4 According to the guidelines, a heart-healthy diet is:

  • High in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes
  • Moderate in low-fat dairy and seafood
  • Low in processed meats, sugary beverages, refined grains, and sodium

Most food choices in the Volumetrics diet are heart-healthy foods. They have low saturated fat and cholesterol content.

Too much cholesterol and saturated fat can cause build-up or plaque in your blood vessels, increasing your heart disease and stroke risk.5

The foods in the Volumetrics diet also have a high fiber content. Fiber helps with flushing out excess cholesterol from the body.6 


The Volumetrics diet can be good for avoiding the risk of heart disease and stroke. Most of the food choices in this eating plan are low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which are the common risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Lowers the risk of diabetes

Health experts believe that the Volumetrics diet can help with diabetes. The diet limits your consumption of sugary drinks and foods and helps you focus on whole foods. 

Sugar-sweetened foods and beverages give your body excess calories without satiating you for periods. 

Having a diet high in sugary foods and drinks may lead to problems with overeating, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity

Not only that, the body quickly digests and absorbs them into the bloodstream, which can rapidly raise your blood sugar. They can put a strain on your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels.

By helping you avoid these risk factors, the Volumetrics diet can help you lower your risk of diabetes. 


The Volumetrics diet limits your consumption of sugary drinks and foods. By doing so, it can help lower your risk of developing diabetes.

Promotes a healthier relationship with food 

The Volumetrics diet promotes healthy eating patterns that have a long-term impact on your well-being.

For instance, you can learn to curb your appetite by focusing on meals that are low in calorie density. These types of foods can help fill you up and help you avoid overeating. 

The diet also encourages mindful eating by recommending which foods you should consume more or limit.


The Volumetrics diet's approach to building your eating habits can leave you with a healthier relationship with food. It helps you be mindful of which foods to focus on or eat in moderation.

The Four Categories of the Volumetrics Diet

The Volumetrics Diet groups food into four categories based on their calorie density

You can determine which category a food belongs to by dividing the number of calories per serving by its weight in grams. It should give you a value between zero and nine.

  • Category 1 — less than 0.6 calories per gram
  • Category 2 — 0.6 to 1.5 calories per gram
  • Category 3 — 1.6 to 3.9 calories per gram
  • Category 4 — 4.0 to 9.0 calories per gram

If you plan on following the Volumetrics diet for weight loss, health experts suggest sticking to 1,400 calories daily. 

Your major food source should be from categories one and two since they have lower calorie density. You can also indulge in some foods from categories three and four, but only occasionally. 

Below are some foods you should eat more with a volumetric diet.

Category 1 — Very Low-Density Foods

Some examples of Category 1 foods are:

  • Fresh fruits like bananas, apples, and grapefruit
  • Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery, and carrots
  • Non-fat dairy products like non-fat yogurt or skim milk
  • Broth-based soups

Category 2 — Low-Density Foods

Some examples of Category 2 foods are:

  • Lean proteins, such as chicken and turkey
  • Lean cuts of pork or beef
  • Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and farro
  • Legumes, including chickpeas, dried beans, and lentils
  • Starchy vegetables like corn, potatoes, and squash
  • Low-fat yogurt 

Category 3 — Medium-Density Foods

Examples of Category 3 foods include:

  • Fatty fish and meat
  • Full-fat dairy products, such as ice cream, cheese, and whole milk.
  • Refined carbohydrates like pasta, white bread, and white rice

Category 4 — High-Density Foods

Here are some examples of Category 4 foods:

  • Nuts and seeds like pecans, macadamias
  • Oils
  • Butter
  • Fast food and fried foods like french fries
  • Candy
  • Chips


The four categories of the Volumetrics eating plan serve as a guideline on which foods you should prioritize when planning your meals. It also guides you on the foods you should consume in moderation.

Pros and Cons of the Volumetrics Diet

Before committing to the Volumetrics diet, it’s essential that you weigh its advantages and drawback. Here are the most common things to consider.


  • It promotes long-term and healthy weight loss
  • It does not restrict entire food groups
  • It is not a fad diet
  • It’s supported by different research


  • Meal preparations can be time-consuming
  • It may be too calorie-focused
  • It makes eating out for meals challenging

Are There Any Foods You Should Avoid?

No, you don’t need to stop eating any food. But you may need to limit some foods, especially high-calorie-dense ones, such as foods high in refined carbohydrates.

The Volumetrics diet doesn’t eliminate an entire food group, which makes it unique from other diet plans. Instead, it focuses on what you should eat more or less of, depending on their caloric density.

The diet suggests you implement a portion control on the foods from categories three and four.


You don't need to avoid any foods with the Volumetrics diet. But you may need to limit consuming foods, especially high-calorie-dense meals.

Is the Volumetrics Diet Safe?

Yes, the Volumetrics eating plan is safe for most people.

Unlike some fad diets, it doesn't require you to eliminate a certain food group. It also doesn't need you to maintain a very high-calorie deficit, which can potentially negatively impact your health.

It's almost adaptable to different health conditions. For instance, people with diabetes can try the Volumetrics eating plan as long as they monitor their blood sugar levels closely and adjust their medications.

However, since it is mainly a weight-loss diet, it may not be suitable for people who shouldn't lose weight, including:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • People within the normal weight range
  • Underweight people
  • People who are immuno-compromised
  • People with chronic conditions that aren't well regulated
  • People with a history of eating disorders

It's always a good idea to consult your doctor when starting a new diet, especially if you have underlying health problems.


Generally, the Volumetrics eating plan is safe for most people. However, it may not be suitable for people who shouldn't lose weight, like pregnant women, children, and so on.

Should You Try the Volumetrics Eating Plan?

Yes, the Volumetrics is definitely worth a try.

The Volumetrics diet plan is great for losing weight. It reduces your daily calorie intake while keeping you satiated for longer periods. 

It doesn’t deprive you of food or nutrition. This makes it suitable for healthy weight loss and long-term weight management.

However, registered dietitian Elise Harlow reminds readers that weight loss plans should be individualized and that results may vary for each person.

“While there are several aspects of the volumetrics diet that are beneficial, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, the outcomes of a diet cannot be guaranteed for any individual person,” she says.

But if you’re uncomfortable with the Volumetrics diet, you can try other weight loss diets. Just remember to consult your doctor before starting any diet regimen.


If you want to lose weight but are not willing to give up certain foods, like carbs, you can start with the Volumetrics diet. The diet doesn't require you to avoid any foods or starve yourself to lose weight.

Updated on September 13, 2023
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Updated on September 13, 2023
Elise Harlow
Elise Harlow, M.S., R.D.N.
Medical Reviewer
Elise Harlow is a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences. She is the founder of an online nutrition consulting and coaching business.

Elise helps people use the power of food to lead healthier lives. She works with various clients, including those who want to achieve a healthier weight, improve their gut health, lower cholesterol, manage their blood sugar, or balance their hormones.
Jennifer Anyabuine
Jennifer Anyabuine
Content Contributor
Jennifer Anyabuine is a content writer with KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Biochemistry. She has been writing for 2 years. Her focus is women’s health, fitness, mental health, and general wellness.
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