Volumetrics is the principle of getting the most volume out of the least amount of calories. This concept can also be referred to as the energy density or caloric density of a food. When we break down foods into their macronutrients, we know that fat at 9 calories per gram is more than twice the energy density of proteins and carbohydrates at 4 calories per gram.
Foods that are high in fiber and water tend to be the best option when applying volumetrics. Fresh fruits and vegetables, which are 80% to 90% water by weight, are the best choices. This approach has dual strength as water has an energy density (or caloric impact) of zero and the sensation of hunger is often confused with that of thirst, so it will rehydrate your body while providing satiety.
With volumetrics, we focus on eating an abundance of foods rather than depriving ourselves of food and feeling hungry, which can lead to poor decision-making and overeating. Eliminating dried fruits and substituting fresh fruits is an easy way to increase volume, decrease calories, and balance blood sugar levels. For example, ¼ cup of raisins is 100 calories, which can easily be mixed with ¼ cup nuts to become trail mix. This will total over 300 calories. On the other hand, 100 calories of grapes will get you two full cups of volume. Paired with a few tablespoons of nuts and you’ll total around 150 calories. This would provide you four times the volume with half the calories.
Did you know: the human stomach holds about three to four cups of volume. There are stretch-receptors that tell the brain we are satisfied or full when the stomach is stretched, so for long-term weight loss or satiety, aim for three to four cups of volume per intake. The ideal balance would be two to three cups of non-starchy vegetables (10 to 25 calories each), ⅔ to one cup of protein (40-120 calories), ⅓ to ½ carbohydrates from fruit, starch, liquid dairy (60-120 calories) to yield balance with sustainable results.
How to get the bang for your buck with calories and satiety:
- Always keep a container of pre-washed spinach or salad greens in your fridge and add them to everything: pizza, pasta, grilled meats, tortillas
- Have a side salad with a vinaigrette dressing
- Pre-cut vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, onions, carrots and keep them in your fridge for a quick stir-fry or additions to your plate
- Make your own dressings at home and add fresh herbs and spices for a punch of flavor with less calories
- Drinking more water will contribute to satiety and keep you hydrated
- Use a smaller plate to full feed your eyes
Calorie breakdown for one cup of volume:
- rice and beans: 220-250 calories
- fruit: 60-100 calories
- vegetables: 11-40 calories
- nuts: 800 calories
When serving yourself, it’s important to choose wisely! Implement the science of volumetrics into your diet and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy lifestyle. Do you have questions about volumetrics? Ask away on Facebook!
If you’re looking for even more resources to learn more about healthy eating, try our Naturally Nourished podcast!