Volume Eating: The Good, The Bad, And The Nasty!

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If you’re following volume eating you’re able to eat a larger volume of food with fewer calories.

So without having to do any counting you’re more likely to find yourself in a calorie deficit and that’s how you lose body fat there are some great things that we can take from high volume eating but I think you need to be cautious about following it all together because there are a lot of ways that it can go wrong so I’m going to tell you how you can use it and where it can be helpful but I’m also going to caution you against taking it too far because there are definitely ways where this system can go wrong and I don’t really use it myself for those reasons

Volume Eating & Calorie Density

There’s nothing really new about volume eating or the idea of the volumetrics diet, where we ask people to focus on foods with lower calorie density.

So fewer calories in a bigger space.

Every time I’ve talked about losing weight without counting calories I’ve always mentioned calorie density as part of that strategy.

You’re focusing on foods that fill you up with very few calories.

Carbs, Fat & Protein

Now in terms of individual macronutrients: carbs have four calories per gram, protein has four calories per gram, and fat has nine calories per gram.

For a smaller volume, fat is providing more calories.

Now this is probably part of how the whole low fat movement way back I think in the 80s started.

Because if you keep low fat you’re naturally going to reduce your overall calories.

Volume Eating Starts With Fruits And Vegetables

You start off by focusing on vegetables and fruit.

Typical high volume foods include grapes and watermelon and of course the berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries.

Now the idea here is that if you fill it up on fruits and vegetables you don’t have as much space. The stomach is going to feel more full.

Your stomach is about the size of a fist and then it expands to accommodate the food. As those stretch receptors in the stomach feel that your stomach is expanding you get messages that you’re getting fuller. So the idea is that high volume foods are going to take up more space in your stomach making you feel fuller.

If you look at the this comparison of fat in the stomach compared to protein compared to veggies. 400 calories of oil is taking up less space than 400 calories of chicken and that’s even less than 400 calories of fruits and veggies.

Fullness And Satiety

There are other things that will contribute to satiety your feeling of satisfaction with a meal now.

I’m going to talk about those as well towards the end.

High Volume Protein Sources

Some of the best high volume foods that are protein sources. Ff course we start with chicken breast,because that’s pretty much just protein.

Chicken thighs, for instance, have more fat. There’s fewer calories in a chicken breast than there are in a chicken thigh.

So the idea would be to choose chicken breasts more often than chicken thigh.

Seafood can also be a good choice. Shrimp and white fish particularly. Those are the fish that have the most protein and not that much fat. if you look at something like salmos which is healthy food but it has a lot more fat (healthy omega-3 fats). It’s going to be higher in calorie density so it belongs in a different group for high volume eating.

You would want to have more white fish and shrimp and less salmon.

If you’re getting nervous that this might not be the healthy choice, I’m going to talk about that at the end.

Eggs & Protein

Egg whites would be preferable to whole eggs because whole eggs are going to contain more calories for their serving size. Still pretty low in calories. An egg might be 60 to 80 calories. Two whole eggs are going to take up a smaller amount of space in your stomach than a whole bunch of egg whites that contain the same amount of calories.

High Volume Eating Substitutions

There are all these little tricks.

I’m pretty lazy about cooking. In fact, my husband does a lot more of it and I tend to just put meals together. I want to keep it really simple.

I’m not the kind of person who’s going to make fresh zucchini noodles because they’re lower in calorie density than regular noodles. I’m just gonna eat the regular noodles and have them in a smaller quantity.

I’ve also heard of people doing mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Potatoes are more calorie dense, so if you make the same volume of a mash the cauliflower mash is going to have fewer calories than the same volume of a potato mash.

But, let’s be honest. Cauliflower and potato don’t taste the same. If you’re willing to make that substitution that’s fine. It’s not a change that I want to make. If I’m going to enjoy potato I’m going to enjoy potato. I’m just going to have a smaller portion.

But according to volume eating, it would be better if you did zucchini noodles and cauliflower mash.

So if you’re into that then no problem. That’s your choice. It’s just not the way that I personally choose to eat. I don’t think they’re always practical if you’re cooking for a family as well. Not every child enjoys cauliflower mash as much as mashed potatoes.

Raw Vs Cooked Food In Volume Eating

With volume eating there would be a preference for raw food versus cooked food. Because for a lot of foods, as you cook them down you increase the calorie density of that food. So you’re not taking up as much space in your stomach. If you think about a big box of spinach and then it cooks down to a very small amount.

Through volume eating you would prefer raw spinach. I’m going to talk about why that might not be a great choice!

Choosing Whole Foods Vs Liquids

Certain things do make a lot of sense. Choosing fruit rather than fruit juice because the fruit is going to fill you up. And there’s a lot more calories in liquid form, through that juice than you would find in the actual fruit.

Volume Eating Meal Ideas

Roasted vegetables are a great way to make vegetables more appealing. Practically every veggie tastes better when it’s been roasted.

Stir fries are a great way to add in high volume veggies and really make it something that feels satisfying.

I also really like egg scrambles. That’s where you take eggs and then you’re mixing in perhaps leftover veggies from the night before and you mix that all together. That means that you’ve got a large volume of food. A lot of it is vegetables that are low in calories. You don’t want to add too much fat. And that becomes a nice high volume meal.

This is the reason a lot of people automatically lose weight when they go vegetarian or vegan, especially if they’re eliminating oils as well. It tends to be very easy to get full but there are a lot of issues with this.

High Volume Foods

The highest volume lowest calorie foods are going to be greens and cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage. Other vegetables like peppers and onions fit in there as well. And then fruit.

Moderate Volume Foods

Now in the moderate range you’re going to have this starchy things like potatoes and sweet potatoes and whole grains.

They have more calorie density than fruits and vegetables.

Lean cuts of meat will also fit in here, as well as lower fat dairy products.

Low Volume Foods

The lower volume foods that don’t take up as much space are going to be the fattier cuts of meat, cheese, egg yolks, nuts and seeds and oils and sugars. As well, most ultra processed foods (that’s what a lot of people call junk foods). The chips, the fries, the cookies the ice cream. Those are going to fall into low volume as well.

This is the first issue that I have with high volume eating.

Nuts And Volume Eating

When we look at low volume foods you’ll notice that healthy foods like nuts and seeds and some oils is well are in the same category as these highly processed foods like chips and fries. That means that it’s recommended that you have smaller amounts of those things. But the benefits of having nuts and seeds are going to be greater than having these ultra processed foods. Putting them in the same category isn’t really telling you the whole story.

Nuts contain fiber they contain healthy fats that can help stabilize your blood sugar. The fiber can be helpful for your digestion but it also increases the calories out as well so that means that you’re burning a few extra calories digesting that food than you would be an ultra processed food. So while you want to watch your portion sizes for nuts and seeds you also shouldn’t treat them the same way as your treat foods.

And sometimes with these types of diets people go to extremes. They see  something I should be limiting so I’m just not going to have that at all.

So I’m not going to have any of the treat foods but I’m also not going to have any nuts and seeds because they’re very high in calorie density.

Appetite And Volume Eating

It’s actually been shown that nuts can help people in the long term for maintaining their weight . They keep people full. Satiated after their meals.

Appetite can play a big role in weight loss.

Now using a few tools from volume eating can be really helpful but that doesn’t mean that you want to take it to extremes.

Issues With Volume Eating

I would suggest not actually following the plan as it’s designed, because there are some issues.

Too Much Fibre In Volume Eating

There could be a possibility of getting too much fiber with this type of plan. If you’re filling up all the time on fruits and vegetables then yes you’re going to be low in calories. But having too much fiber can cause bloating and discomfort.

I suffer from IBS irritable bowel syndrome so I can’t do high volume eating. If I eat that much fiber, particularly those cruciferous vegetables, I’m gonna have some serious digestive upset. That’s actually not just for people with digestive issues. If you eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables you’re going to feel a lot of bloating as a result.

Issues With Raw Vegetables

And and this becomes even worse if you’re having raw vegetables. Most vegetables become much more easy to digest. Also the nutrients are better absorbed when the food is cooked.

Beta-carotene from carrots is better absorbed than from raw carrots .

Cooking spinach means that you can absorb more of the calcium and iron.

So it’s not always beneficial to have food raw.

I personally rarely have salads Most of my vegetables are well cooked because it’s much more easy to digest.

How Much Fibre?

You’re aiming for 25 grams of fiber for women per day 38 grams of fiber for men.

If you get more than that it’s not better. It just means that you’ll have more bloating. It can interfere with your absorption of certain nutrients as well.

So more is not better when it comes to fiber.

This has happened to me a few times preparing for Fitness competitions because I’m trying to get leaner in order to get on stage. And because I’m focusing too much on lower calorie vegetables in order to get leaner and leaner get the calorie intake down, I found that I over did it. Then all of a sudden I would be bloated. It’s not pretty.

Be Careful Adding Fibre To Your Diet

If you are starting to increase your intake of fiber make sure that you also have enough water during the day. Because that helps the fiber move through your system.

 Food Substitutions In Volume Eating

There’s also this unrealistic idea in volume eating that you can replace certain foods with other foods. I’ve seen people recommend that you choose a Greek yogurt instead of ice cream because you can have a whole lot of Greek yogurt and not that much ice cream for the same amount of calories.

I like Greek yogurt but it’s never going to be as satisfying as ice cream. So I personally would rather have a smaller serving of ice cream than a whole lot of yogurt.

And if you’re constantly making all these swaps you may be left with certain cravings. You won’t be able to stop thinking about these particular foods. And if you fill yourself up with Greek yogurt but you still can’t stop thinking about ice cream, chances are you’re just gonna eat that ice cream eventually anyway.

Reasons For Eating Beyond Fullness

It’s also really important to remember that people are not always eating because they’re not full or because they don’t have a sensation of fullness in their stomach.

I have a history of overeating and binge eating and my stomach was completely full with healthy foods and I was still able to have a lot of ice cream and a lot of chocolate on top.

So sometimes just this idea of filling yourself up is not enough. There are a lot of things that are going to contribute to your satisfaction with a meal. Volume is only one of them.

The amount of protein and the amount of fat in a meal is going to affect how satisfying it is for you and how long it keeps you full.

Just having vegetables or other carbs because they’re higher volume foods is not necessarily going to make you feel satisfied.

You don’t always want to go for the high volume of food just because it’s high volume. You need a balance of nutrients. So use volume eating as a strategy to help you naturally reduce your calories and be more aware of calorie density. But don’t go overboard.

If you’re not sure how to put it all together check out my online course.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 8-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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