What You Need To Know About The Volumetric Diet

The volumetric diet proposes an ideal reality: eat less, feel full. Created by Dr. Barbara J. Rolls, director of the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State, the diet guides followers toward low-calorie foods while avoiding choices that are high in calories (via Everyday Health). The logic behind the diet is that reducing your calorie intake can lead to slow and steady weight loss. At the rate of reducing 500 to 1,000 calories a day, followers of the volumetrics diet may lose one to two pounds per week.

On the diet, which has been described as more of a long-term approach to eating, food is divided into four groups: very low-density foods, low-density foods, medium-density foods, and high-density foods (via U.S. News & World Report). For example, category one includes mainly non-starchy vegetables and broth, while category two consists of starchy vegetables, fruits, low-fat meat, and whole grains. Category three includes meat, cheese, bread, and ice cream, while category four includes high-calorie foods like chips, chocolate, nuts, and cookies. Followers of the diet are advised to mainly build their meal plans around the foods in the first two categories. Foods from category three can still be eaten in moderation, while foods from the last category should be consumed sparingly. 

While on the diet, you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and two snacks, using the categories to guide you towards your food choices. Though the volumetrics diet has been widely praised, there are still some factors of which to be mindful.

How the volumetrics diet works

The volumetrics diet offers a non-structured approach, so followers don’t have to rigidly stick to set meal plans. Rather, they educate themselves on the calorie density of different foods and then make their own choices. Though the strategy focuses on diet, there’s also an exercise component. WebMD explains that followers begin by adding 150 steps a day to their routine until they are logging 10,000 steps daily.

Food Insight outlines several benefits of the volumetrics diet, including the fact that no foods are completely eliminated. While category three and four foods are eaten in limited amounts, they are not “forbidden.” Therefore, dieters may be less likely to feel deprived. The diet also allows you to eat large portions of certain foods and encourages consuming options from category one until your hunger is satisfied. As such, the diet is more likely to leave followers feeling full. The foods in the first two categories also tend to be nutrient-dense, despite not being calorie-dense. Consequently, the diet does provide vital nutrients. With these factors considered, the volumetrics diet gets the tick of approval from several experts in the field. But it still may not be the best choice for you.

Is the volumetrics diet right for you?

The volumetrics diet has been praised for not eliminating any food group altogether. But as Healthline points out, it does restrict several foods. Categorizing foods into groups the way the diet does may encourage disordered eating habits in certain people. For example, though the terms “good” and “bad” aren’t used, followers of the diet may start viewing the foods in the last two categories as “bad” and develop an unhealthy relationship with them. According to Meal Prep, it can also take time to become familiar with the categories and design your own meal plan based on them. This diet may not work for those seeking a more structured approach and isn’t ideal for those who want to be told exactly what to eat.

According to Eating Well, the volumetrics plan does increase the variety of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet, but it also limits nutrient-rich fats. Olive oil, avocados, and nuts are only eaten sparingly, meaning that a person can miss out on the specific nutrients in these high-calorie foods. The diet also requires you to cook most meals at home, which may not be feasible with certain lifestyles. Overall, the volumetrics diet may be an effective option for those who’d like to lose weight with a flexible plan that doesn’t require calorie counting or severe food restriction. However, it’s not the best choice for those who seek more structure in a diet or don’t have the time to identify and prepare low-calorie foods.