Pump up the volume (eating)  

Volume eating is a way of eating more food without overly increasing caloric intake. Who doesn’t want that?!?

High Volume vs. Low Volume Foods

The caloric density of a food is based on its macronutrient content. 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 fibre and/or water content are considered “high-volume foods”, given that both fibre and water provide little to no calories per gram.

Benefits of Volume Eating

1) 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 fibre and water, they help to keep you full since they, quite literally, help to keep your stomach fuller.

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 fibre, vitamins, and minerals at the same time.

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.

3) Increases Fibre and Nutrient-Density

Since high-volume foods are primarily fruits and vegetables, volume eating is a simple yet highly effective way to increase your intake of nutrient-dense, high fibre 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 fibre, 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 fibre, 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 fibre, and high sugar content and are, therefore, the highest in calories per serving. Low-volume foods include:

  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Oils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fruit, dried or juiced
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Sugar

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.

  1. Cook a sliced apple or pear into oatmeal.
  2. Add cooked veggies to a bowl of pasta.
  3. Snack on popcorn instead of nuts.
  4. Add chopped veggies to scrambled eggs.
  5. Serve casseroles or meat dishes on a bed of lettuce.
  6. Use salsa as a condiment or a dip.
  7. Cook chopped mushrooms into ground beef.
  8. Cook chopped cauliflower with rice.
  9. Eat fresh fruit instead of dried fruit.
  10. 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 a way to increase the overall volume of food you are eating without compromising your weight-loss goals.

To wrap it up…

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 with less diligence. Higher volume does not always mean higher calorie; it all depends on what you are creating that volume with.