Volume Eating 101
If you are someone who wants to consume a full plate or bowl without negatively impacting your health or weight loss goals, volume eating might be a good strategy for you. Here is a complete beginner’s guide to volume eating; what it is, how it works, the difference between high-volume and low-volume foods, and some examples of volume eating.
What is Volume Eating?
Volume eating is a concept, strategy, or method of eating that allows for large consumption of food while minimizing calorie intake. Given that, gram per gram, different macronutrients provide a different number of calories, volume eating allows you to prioritize high-volume foods to help increase satiety and fullness without increasing calorie intake. Volume eating is based on the fact that:
- A food’s physical weight and calorie content are not directly correlated,
- The calorie content of food is determined by its macronutrients content,
- Different macronutrients provide different amounts of calories per gram (protein = 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram, fat = 9 calories per gram).
In short, volume eating is a way of eating more food without overly increasing calorie intake.
High-Volume vs. Low-Volume Foods
The energy density (or calorie density) of a food is based on its macronutrient content and balance. Foods high in fat and/or more concentrated in sugar are considered “low-volume foods”, given that fat contains more than double the number of calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates, while foods high in fiber and/or water content are considered “high-volume foods”, given that both fiber and water provide little to no calories per gram.
|Per 1 cup||SPINACH||APPLE||WHITE RICE||AVOCADO||OLIVE OIL|
|Weight||30 grams||125 grams||158 grams||230 grams||216 grams|
|Calories||7 calories||65 calories||205 calories||384 calories||1,910 calories|
Based on raw spinach, raw apple with skin, cooked long-grain white rice, raw avocado, and olive oil. (1)
Benefits of Volume Eating
Helps with Satiety and Fullness
Focusing on nutrient-dense high-volume whole foods helps to keep you full and satisfied. Since most high-volume foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are rich sources of fiber and water, they help to keep you full since they, quite literally, help to keep your stomach fuller.
When subjects eating foods low in caloric density, such as fruits and vegetables, are compared with those consuming foods richer in calories, those on meal plans with higher calorie concentrations were found to consume twice as many calories per day in order to satisfy their hunger. (2)
Allows for Higher Food Consumption
If you are someone who “eats with your eyes” and wants your bowl or plate to look full, volume eating is a great tool for you. Not only does it allow for larger portions (i.e. full bowls and plates) but it also helps to increase your intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals at the same time.
Manages Calories without Counting Calories
If you have a goal of weight loss or are concerned with the number of calories you are consuming, volume eating can be a game-changing tool in your nutrition toolkit. Although having a full bowl or plate is often construed as a bad thing – more volume must mean more calories – that’s not the case. By focusing on leafy greens, vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains you can eat in a high volume (i.e. massive portion size) with little impact on the total number of calories you are consuming.
Increases Fibre and Nutrient-Density
Since high-volume foods are primarily fruits and vegetables, volume eating a simple yet highly effective way to increase your intake of nutrient-dense, high-fiber whole foods without much effort.
High-Volume Low-Calorie Foods
These foods can be consumed with little attention to portion size. They have a high water, high fiber, and low sugar content and are, therefore, low in calories per serving. High-volume foods include:
- Leafy green vegetables (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.)
- Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, etc.)
- Stem and other vegetables (peppers, onions, zucchini, celery, etc.)
- Fruit, especially berries
Moderate-Volume Moderate-Calorie Foods
Be slightly more mindful of portion size when consuming these foods. They have a high water, moderate to high fiber, and moderate to high sugar content and are, therefore, higher in calories per serving. Moderate-volume foods include:
- Root vegetables (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc..)
- Whole grains
- Lean cuts of meat
Low-Volume High-Calorie Foods
Be very mindful of portion size when consuming these foods. They have a low water, low fiber, and high sugar content and are, therefore, the highest in calories per serving. Low-volume foods include:
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Fruit, dried or juiced
- Maple syrup
Examples of Volume Eating
If you’re a volume eater and you want your plate or bowl to look full when you make a meal, here are some hacks or tips that you might find useful.
- Cook a sliced apple or pear into oatmeal.
- Add cooked veggies to a bowl of pasta.
- Snack on popcorn instead of nuts.
- Add chopped veggies to scrambled eggs.
- Serve casseroles or meat dishes on a bed of lettuce.
- Use salsa as a condiment or a dip.
- Cook chopped mushrooms into ground beef.
- Cook chopped cauliflower with rice.
- Eat fresh fruit instead of dried fruit.
- Add a side salad to every meal.
To be clear, these examples do not imply that the original version or option is unhealthy. It’s simply a way to increase the overall volume of food you are eating without compromising your health goals.
The Bottom Line
Volume eating is an eating strategy that focuses on increasing the consumption level of lower-calorie foods. Although all whole foods have a place in a healthy diet, if you have a goal of weight loss or consider yourself a “volume eater” it is important to be mindful of portion sizes of low-volume foods, while you can enjoy high-volume foods without as much concern. Higher volume does not always mean higher calories; it all depends on what you are creating that volume with.