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Bite Into Volumetrics to Lose the Pounds

by and on January 22, 2015 9:20 AM

Change and contradictions in dieting advice can be hard to swallow.

But with the Volumetrics approach to eating, the message is clear and constant: eat more to weigh less.

Ranked among the top 10 best diets for 2015 by U.S. News and World Report, the plan and book by Penn State Nutritional Sciences Professor Barbara Rolls is making headlines once again for its sensible and realistic approach to healthy eating.

The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet was ranked the No. 6 best diet overall for the current year. It held the same designation in 2014.

In its fifth year, the "Best Diets" list by U.S. News & World Report creates in-depth profiles of common diets and eating plans. A panel of experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease review the profiles and rate each one in seven categories: how easy it is to follow, its ability to produce short-term and long-term weight loss, its nutritional completeness, its safety, and its potential for preventing and managing diabetes and heart disease.

For 2015, Volumetrics also received the No. 6 spot for best weight-loss diets; the No. 8 spot for best diabetes diets; the No. 11 spot for best heart-healthy diets; and the No. 4 spot for best diets for healthy eating. It was ranked fifth for easiest diets to follow.

Rolls, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Digestive Behavior in the College of Health and Human Development, says Volumetrics has made the U.S. News & World Report's top 10 diet lists since 2011.

The approach focuses on feeling full on fewer calories. By eating more low-calorie dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and fewer higher-calorie dense foods, such as oil and butter, participants can manage hunger while consuming fewer calories. For the same amount of calories, a person can consume a larger portion of a food lower in energy density than a food higher in energy density. Followed long term, the goal is weight management for people of all ages.

Using Volumetrics, food is divided into four categories in which participants can eat a lot of or a little of, depending on the group. For example, Category 1, in which participants are encouraged to eat heavily, include very low-energy density foods such as non-starchy fruits and vegetables, nonfat milk and broth-based soup. Category 2 choices also are meant to make up a large portion of participants' diets, and include things such as starchy fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes and low-fat meats.

Category 4 choices, which should be kept to a minimum, include high-energy density foods such as crackers, chips, cookies and nuts.

Additionally, the plan does not involve cutting out any food groups, and participants are allowed to keep eating their favorite foods, with a few tweaks.

The "Volumetrics Weight Control Plan" was published in 2000, Rolls says, followed by "The Volumetrics Eating Plan" in 2005, and the most recent book, "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet." All three books are based on the science of satiety and provide the latest evidence on how to manage weight while eating a healthy diet, Rolls says. However, the most recent book is more structured and features a 12-week plan, practical tips and more delicious recipes.

Rolls says Volumetrics maintains its success throughout evolving food and diet fads over the years simply because it isn't a fad.

Many of the top eating plans recognized by U.S. News & World Report are based on sound principles and are similar in nutritional science to Volumetrics, Rolls says.

"Ours is based more on satiety, or how to feel full on fewer calories," she says. "The studies on satiety conducted here in our lab at Penn State provide the core principles for the plans."

When Rolls wrote the first Volumetrics books, it was uncommon for diet books to be written by scientists, she says.

"I felt it was pretty risky because diet books can have a negative feel to them," Rolls says. "I've been very pleased with the impact it's had on the field."

Rolls, the Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutritional Sciences, adds that there is never going to be one single diet that fits everybody, and that choices in weight loss and management are crucial.

"I'd like to think that I'm doing some good as we face the challenge of combating the current obesity epidemic," she says.

Other diets and eating plans that made the top 10 list for 2015 include Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet.

For more information on the 2015 Best Diet rankings, visit

For more information about the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, visit


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This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

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