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
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
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.