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Volumetrics Diet — What You Need to Know
Updated on February 27, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
Volumetrics Diet — What You Need to Know

You don't have to go hungry to lose weight. The volumetrics diet helps you choose healthier foods that encourage weight loss while still eating a decent volume of food. 

We asked Elise Harlow, a registered dietitian with a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences, to help explain how the volumetric diet works.

Here’s everything you should know before starting this diet.

Volumetrics Diet — What You Need to Know 2

What is the Volumetrics Diet?

Dr. Barbara Rolls, a nutrition and obesity researcher at Penn State University, developed the volumetrics meal plan.1 

It involves eating foods that are high in both fiber and water. Foods that are rich in water and fiber are filling but have fewer calories.

If you stick to low calorie density foods, you can eat up to 3 meals, 2 snacks, and 1 dessert daily without significantly adding to your calories. 2

How Does The Volumetrics Diet Work?

The volumetrics diet fills you up with low-calorie dense foods. This includes foods that have a high water and fiber content, such as broccoli. 

This will reduce your overall caloric intake and help you reach a calorie deficit while still having large and filling meals. In turn, this encourages your body to burn excess fat.

What Can I Eat On A Volumetrics Diet?

Your meals will mostly consist of foods that keep you full with fewer calories. You can also eat some foods with higher energy content.

The volumetrics diet divides foods into 4 categories based on their calorie density: 

  • 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

To get energy density, divide the number of calories per serving with the food’s weight in grams.  

Category 1 and 2 foods are preferred for their low caloric density. They also tend to be healthy foods packed with nutrients.

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

Category 1 — Very Low-Calorie Foods

Some examples of category 1 foods are:3

  • Milk
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Tomato
  • Peaches
  • Cucumber
  • Chicken broth
  • Broth-based soups

Category 2 — Low-Calorie Foods

Some examples of category 2 foods are:3

  • Tofu
  • Pasta
  • Shrimp
  • Olives
  • Grapes
  • Potatoes
  • Low-fat yogurt 
  • Vegetarian chili

Are There Any Foods You Should Avoid?

A unique feature of the volumetrics diet is that it doesn’t eliminate entire food groups. Instead, it focuses on what you should eat more or less of, depending on their calorie density. 

Here are some foods to limit if you’re on a volumetrics diet. You don’t have to stop eating them, but you do have to reduce their portions in your meals.

Category 3 — Medium Calorie Foods

Examples of category 3 foods include:3

  • Eggs
  • Bagel
  • Raisins
  • Hard pretzels
  • Turkey breast
  • Italian dressing
  • Angel food cake

Category 4 — High-Calorie Foods

Here are some examples of category 4 foods:3

  • Bacon
  • Pecans
  • Croissant
  • Granola bar
  • Tortilla chips
  • Peanut butter
  • Ranch dressing
  • Graham crackers
  • Baked potato chips

Can the Volumetrics Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Yes. You can lose weight by following the volumetrics diet. It contains foods with low energy density. 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.4 It can also help you maintain a healthy weight since it’s easier to stick to the diet.  

Other Benefits of a Volumetrics Diet

The volumetric diet helps you develop a healthy relationship with food. It encourages you to eat low-calorie and nutrient-dense foods and reduce your intake of foods with a high caloric density. 

High-calorie options tend to be unhealthy processed foods. Cutting back on them can protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels.5 

The volumetrics diet plan encourages you to eat lots of fruits and vegetables. They provide nutrients necessary for several body functions. They also promote gut health by providing fiber.

Should You Try the Volumetrics Eating Plan?

The volumetrics diet 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 can not be guaranteed for any individual person,” she says.

But if you’re not comfortable with the volumetrics diet, there are other weight loss diets you can try. Just remember to consult your doctor before starting any diet.

Updated on February 27, 2023
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5 sources cited
Updated on February 27, 2023
  1. Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  2. “Rolls, B. The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet, William Morrow, 2012.”
  3. Volumetrics Diet.” Winchester Hospital.
  4. Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets 2.” PMC.
  5. Impact of cutting out processed foods and refined carbohydrates.” Kauvery Hospital.
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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