A beginner’s guide to volume eating: what is it and how it helps in weight loss?

Among the many weight management practices, there is volume eating which may sound rather ironic considering the goal you are trying to achieve – but it isn’t. In addition, it is not another diet with too many restrictive rules like cutting out certain food groups to obtain a thin body or fasting for long hours and following eating windows. 

Volume eating is basically a weight management and eating principle that is scientific and research-based. This practice promotes healthy eating habits to improve your overall body weight. It is perfect for people who tend to consume a full plate or bowl because it has slightly the same concept, but volume eating does not negatively impact your health and goals in weight loss. Here’s a complete guide for beginners. 

What is volume eating?

Let’s start with the basics. Volume eating refers to a concept, strategy, or method of eating in which you can have a large consumption of food while minimising your calorie intake. From there, every bit of the selected foods you consume provides different macronutrients from a number of calories. Volume eating helps you prioritise high-volume foods so that you can increase satiety and fullness without taking in a lot of calories. 

This weight management strategy is based on certain scientific principles. First, the physical weight and calorie content of foods are not exactly correlated. Secondly, the macronutrient content of foods reflects their calorie content. Lastly, different macronutrients give varying amounts of calories per gram, such as for protein, it is four calories per gram; for carbohydrates, it is four calories per gram; while fat is nine calories per gram. 

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To make it more understandable, volume eating is basically a way of eating more food without significantly increasing your calorie intake. You can apply volume eating to your current diet so you can decrease your calorie density. This approach is highly focused on high-volume foods that have lower calorie densities-also called energy density, while at the same time using portions for food that have a higher calorie density from lower-volume foods [1].

You may want to follow the volume eating approach if you have a weight loss goal to make sure you are in a calorie deficit. Or you have a very large appetite, and you find it extremely hard to stop. Volume eating can keep your food intake high without gaining many calories. 

Volume eating in weight loss 

So, the next question is how exactly can volume eating help in weight loss. As mentioned, the volume eating method involves the concepts of calorie intake and calorie deficit because it promotes the calorie balance equation by eating good and healthy foods. Hence, even though you eat a whole plate, it is not really a problem, but rather good as the food is packed with macronutrients. 

Some volume-eating advocates say that this is one healthier way to reduce your weight without overly obsessing about counting calories on whatever you consume – simply, let go of the big appetite but just eat the right meals. 

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Volume eating can increase satiety

By focusing on food that is high-volume, you are keeping yourself full for longer hours which can prevent you from eating more later in the day. For example, eating three and a half cups of raw spinach can physically take up more space in your stomach than consuming a half cup of cooked-down spinach. This practice will make you feel more full for a similar amount of calories. Plus, the good news is that high-volume foods are also high in fibre which can further increase your satiety.

Volume eating can allow you to eat more

The majority of us can’t just stop a habit that has been going on for years, like overeating and chewing food from time to time – it is realistically hard. Volume eating is a strategy exactly designed for that dilemma. When you are eating while you are on a calorie deficit to achieve weight loss, your overeating habit can naturally be minimised. You will be killing two birds with one stone – overeating habits and weight loss. 

What are high-volume foods? 

As explained above, the energy density of foods is based on their macronutrient content and balance. High-volume foods refer to foods that are high in fibre or water content that provide little to no calories per gram. There are high-volume foods with low calories that can be consumed with little attention to portion sizes. This type of food normally contains high water and fibre and low sugar content. 

Some examples of high-volume foods are leafy green vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach and kale; cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, butternut, squash, cauliflower, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli; stem and other vegetables, including peppers, onions, cucumbers, zucchini and celery; and whole fruits like berries. Oatmeal and egg whites are also good examples of high-volume foods. 

Moreover, there are also moderate-volume calorie foods that you should be mindful of adding when you follow the volume eating approach. Moderate-volume calorie foods have high water, moderate to high fibre, moderate to high sugar content and, most importantly, have higher calories per serving. These can be root vegetables, such as beets, carrots and sweet potatoes, whole grains and lean cuts of meat. 

Low-volume foods 

On the other hand, low-volume foods refer to foods that have high fats and are more concentrated in sugar, considering that fat contains more than double the number of calories per gram in comparison to protein and carbohydrates

In eating low-volume high-calorie foods, be mindful of their portion sizes. This type of food has low water and fibre but is high in sugar content and has the highest calories per serving. They are fatty cuts of meat, cheese, butter, oils, nuts, seeds, fruits that are dried or juiced, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup and sugar. Some other forms of low-volume high-calorie foods are pasta, bread, ice cream, chips, most heavily processed foods and heavy condiments or dressings like ranch and mayo [2].

Ways to do volume eating

There are simple ways for beginners if you plan to start following the volume eating strategy. Let’s explore some of the examples and tips to help you start volume eating. 

1. Add more volume to your oatmeal and salads

You can simply cook a sliced apple or pear into your morning oatmeal which is pretty much generic but is essentially good for weight management. Oatmeal and salad are basically high-volume foods, but you can further increase their volume by adding some delicious slices of fruits or vegetables to your bowls. 

2. Eat your vegetables raw rather than cooked

It’s time to swap your cooked spinach! Cooking vegetables basically shrivels them down to nothing in terms of nutrients. You may want to shift to a salad with raw spinach for a ton more volume. When fruits and vegetables are in their raw form, they are much more filling than the cooked versions. You will be getting more nutrient-dense food in your diet by shifting to raw [3].

3. Add egg whites

You should start adding additional egg whites to your morning eggs. By doing this, you can increase your morning eggs’ volume without the extra calories. You can also add volume to your oatmeal by putting in egg whites! 

4. Add vegetables to every meal

A few slices of vegetables in your meals won’t hurt, right? You can fill yourself up with fewer calories by doing this. Adding chopped or diced vegetables to your scrambled eggs is much more bearable if you hate eating vegetables. 

5. Avoid liquid calories

Drinking calories is a silent killer of your weight loss goals. Their extra calories can add up fast without you realising it. Juices, coffee cups, or milk are rarely filling you up. You must pay attention to eating your calories rather than drinking them. 

6. Choose “airy” snacks

Re-think again if you want to grab a bag of chips or pretzels, as they are low-volume foods that are high in calories too. You can shift to eating popcorn, rice cakes or some kind of puff snacks in your house. You will find them much more filling because of their volume. 

Benefits of volume eating in longevity

Overall, your goal of weight loss and adopting healthy eating habits can be achieved through volume eating. It is a game changer in weight management practices and a good method for instilling a healthy relationship with the way you choose your food. 

Full bowls or plates are often seen as bad. Many people believe that more volume means more calories, but apparently, that is not the case. Volume eating can actually increase fibre and nutrient density since high-volume foods are primarily fruits and vegetables.

Volume eating promotes foods that are healthy for long life. Following this approach is one step closer to better longevity, where you can live a much longer life with functional body systems and lesser health issues. Volume eating can prevent you from developing fatal diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. 

[1] https://kaynutrition.com/volume-eating/ 
[2] https://cheatdaydesign.com/the-benefits-of-volume-eating/
[3] https://movingdietitian.com.au/volume-eating/ 

Photograph: Marina Litvinova/Shutterstock
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