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Want to lose weight? Weigh your options

by Monica Pleuler, staff writer

There are two opposing schools of dieting, low-carbohydrate (Atkins), and the high-carbohydrate (Pritiken). Although both approaches can lead to weight reduction, neither approach provides a solution. The new Volumetrics diet consists of eating food that is dense, making you feel fuller on fewer calories.

Dr. Barbara Rolls, a dietician at Pennsylvania State University, has written a book on this new system of weight management called The Volumetrics Eating Plan, which grew from her study of the impact of energy or calorie density, the number of calories in a given weight of food. The Volumetrics diet is based on the theory that satiety, or the sensation of fullness, is food specific. For example, when people are full of one food, they can still eat another. That is why people have room for dessert.


Rolls discovered that when food portions are “supersized,” people eat more. In her study, adults who were offered four different portions of macaroni and cheese ate 30 percent more calories when given the largest portion, compared with the smallest. When asked to rate their fullness upon completion of their meal, the adults reported little difference whether they had eaten the larger portion or the smaller portions. As a result, the adults ate more over a small period of time.
The reason why the Volumetrics diet is becoming popular is because the key to weight management lies in food choices that help dieters feel full with fewer calories. The absence of satiety is the reason why most “diets” don’t work very well or for very long.

“I am so impatient with those who say the nation’s obesity epidemic can be reversed by telling people to eat less. People need to eat more fruits and vegetables, so they get a satisfying amount of food and enough calories,” said Dr. Rolls.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans,which was written by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, encourages overweight families to eat more fruits and vegetables results in greater weight loss, than does telling them not to eat foods high in fat and sugar. “Emphasizing what people can eat, rather than what they should not eat, seems more sustainable,” said Rolls.

In many ways, the Volumetrics diet represents the ultimate value meal: Eat more for less. The secret ingredients that make foods less energy dense i.e., fewer calories in their weight are water and fiber, which explains why vegetables and fruits are among the lowest-energy-dense foods available. On the other hand, vegetable oils, with all the water and fiber removed, are the highest. It’s hard to get full on mayonnaise alone.

Other foods that work well with the Volumetrics diet are beans, fish, chicken without fat or skin, potatoes, pasta, and rice. Foods that have two or more times as many calories as their weight are ice cream, beef, French fries, cheese, pretzels, chips, cookies, and bacon.

The principle becomes obvious when you think of grapes versus potato chips. One hundred calories of grapes represents a great deal more food. They contain water and fiber, the two ingredients for density. Potato chips, which are dried and cooked in vegetable oil, are higher in its energy density.

Energy density is easy to calculate from a food label, so you can do it yourself. Just divide the calories in one serving by its weight in grams, and you have the energy density of the food. For example, take a serving of ice cream. There are 260 calories and the weight is 228 grams. As a result, the energy density is 1.14. That is a low number for the amount of calories consumed.
It’s important to moderate your fat intake since fat packs so many calories into a portion. But adding water-rich foods allows you eat more for the same number of calories, or you can eat your usual portions, take in fewer calories – and lose weight. The Volumetrics approach is “a lot more fun than trying to squeeze the fat out of every food you put in your mouth,” said Rolls.


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