If you’re trying to lose weight, or you’re someone who simply has a very large appetite and wants to limit your overall food consumption, then volume eating is for you.
What is volume eating? How does it work? Is it right for you?
Let’s dive in.
What is Volume Eating?
Volume eating is a method/strategy of eating that has you focusing on high volume, low-calorie foods. This allows you to eat larger quantities of food while keeping calories low.
There are two main reasons why you would want to focus on volume eating:
1) You have a weight loss goal, and you want to be sure you are in a calorie deficit.
2) You have a very large appetite and want to keep your food intake high without consuming a ton of excess calories.
In either case, the reasoning for volume eating remains the same: eat more food with fewer calories.
I know- eating MORE to lose weight sounds counterintuitive, but it’s actually one of the best strategies there is.
When most people set out to lose weight, their first instinct is to eat less. Since we know you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, we naturally try to eat less food. But by focusing on high-volume food, we can stay focused on weight loss without restricting our overall consumption.
By focusing on foods that are lower-calorie and higher volume, you’re going to fill up on fewer calories. Instead of eating less food, you’re actually eating MORE food with fewer calories in order to help you reach that deficit.
How does volume eating help with weight loss?
Eating more foods that are low-calorie certainly makes sense if the goal is to be in a calorie deficit for fat loss, but it’s important to understand how volume eating can actually help you achieve that calorie deficit.
Volume eating increases satiety
Focusing on food that is high-volume is going to keep you fuller for longer.
If you eat 3 1/2 cups of raw spinach, it’s going to physically take up more space in your stomach than 1/2 cup of cooked down spinach, which will make you feel more full for the same amount of calories.
Not only that, but many of the high-volume foods out there (we’ll go over some examples below) are high in fiber, which will further increase your satiety.
Volume eating allows you to eat more
When you’re eating in a calorie deficit for weight loss, your overall consumption is naturally going to decrease.
If you’re used to eating 2,500 calories, but your lower calorie diet now has you eating 1,900 calories, you’re going to be eating less food.
But, that doesn’t have to be miserable! By incorporating more high-volume food into your diet, you’ll actually be increasing the total volume of food you’re eating.
Rather than snacking on tiny portions throughout the day, you’ll be able to have large, filling meals, while still remaining in a caloric deficit to help you achieve your goal body weight.
Examples of volume eating and tips to make it easier
Eating high-volume food doesn’t mean eating lettuce or salad for every meal. Sure, a large salad is a great high-volume meal, but there are plenty of swaps you can make to increase your overall volume.
Let’s explore some examples, along with tips to help you increase your overall food volume.
1. Add fixings to your oatmeal and salads.
Oatmeal and salad are already high volume, but you can increase that volume by adding some delicious fruit or vegetables to your bowls for even more volume.
2. Focus on raw vs cooked vegetables
Swap out your cooked spinach that shrivels down to virtually nothing, and enjoy a side salad with raw spinach for a ton more volume.
In raw form, fruits & vegetables will be much more filling than their cooked-down counterparts, and you’ll be getting more nutrient dense food in your diet.
3. Add egg whites
Add additional egg whites to your morning eggs for increased volume without the extra calories of full eggs, or add volume to your oatmeal with the magic that is egg whites! Plus, it’s a great way to add some lean protein to your diet.
4. Add vegetables to every meal
I know, vegetables can be boring. But by adding a vegetable or two to your plate, you’ll fill yourself up with fewer calories.
This is actually one of my “hacks” I like to implement when I order Chinese food: I’ll order an extra side of steamed vegetables and mix that into my dish for increased volume!
5. Avoid liquid calories
Drinking your calories is hardly ever filling, and the extra calories can add up very quickly without you even realizing it.
Focus on eating your calories, not drinking them, if you want to keep the volume high.
6. Go for “airy” snacks
If you grab a bag of chips or pretzels, it’s going to be very easy to consume a ton of them.
But if you grab some popcorn, rice cakes, or some kind of “puff,” you’ll find it to be much more filling due to the volume.
By making these simple swaps or implementing these changes and focusing on foods that are high in volume (and that you still enjoy), you’ll be able to achieve a calorie deficit without making yourself miserable.
Dieting shouldn’t be terrible. We should always be looking for creative ways to make achieving a calorie deficit way more enjoyable.
If we don’t do that, then we’ll never be able to stick to our diet.
Let’s dive into one example of a swap I started making in my own diet…
If you’re snacking on calorically dense food, like the yogurt-covered raisins above, you’re never going to feel full and satisfied.
Sure, they’re delicious, but when your calorie intake is low, we want to make our calories count.
Back in the day, I was all about yogurt-covered raisins. Without knowing much about nutrition, I figured that raisins + yogurt = great for weight loss.
I mean, they’re both healthy food, so surely together they make a great weight-loss snack.
It wasn’t until I developed an understanding of nutrition that I realized that this snack was loaded with calories, without being very filling.
Plus, it’s really not yogurt at all. It basically just raisins covered in lots of sugar. But that’s a conversation for a different post.
Don’t get me wrong: yogurt-covered raisins can be a great snack. I have nothing against them.
But if you are looking to achieve a calorie deficit, there are certainly better higher-volume options.
Instead of a small 1/2 cup of yogurt-covered raisins, you can enjoy a FULL CUP of grapes and an entire container of Greek yogurt.
Not only will you be consuming more food for fewer calories, but your satiety will increase significantly. You’ll be plenty satisfied after this snack without consuming any excess calories.
Let’s look at some more examples to help you focus on food volume…
High volume foods (With lower calories)
Most low calorie food will fit this category, but here are some of the best examples:
– Whole Fruit
– Leafy green vegetables (lettuce or spinach)
– Egg whites
– Cruciferous veggies (cabbage, cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli)
– Most other vegetables (cucumbers, zucchini, pepper, etc.)
Low volume foods (with higher calorie density)
Be sure to check out my post all about low volume weight gain foods for a deeper dive!
– Nuts & seeds
– Peanut butter / Nut butter
– Dried fruit
– Olive oil
– Pasta & Bread
– Olive Oil
– Ice cream, chips, and most heavily processed foods
– Fruit Juice
– Heavy condiments / dressing (ranch, mayo, etc)
Is volume eating right for you?
Everybody can benefit from focusing on more higher-volume foods.
If your goal is weight loss, being a volume eater makes sense: you’ll be able to eat more food with fewer calories, helping you achieve a calorie deficit.
But even if your goal is not weight loss, focusing on high-volume foods is hugely beneficial. When we focus on volume, we tend to gravitate towards more nutrient-dense foods, lean protein, healthy fat, and overall very nourishing options.
The only time volume eating may not be right for you is if your goal is to actually gain weight.
Since you’ll need to be in a calorie surplus in order to increase your weight, you’ll actually want to eat more calorie dense foods with lower volume to increase your overall calories.
Of course, you can still eat high-volume foods if your goal is weight gain- the two do not have to be mutually exclusive!