Eating low energy density foods can keep you satisfied longer

Strategies to Ward Off Hunger While Trying to Lose Weight

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If you’re looking ahead to the New Year and dreading the thought of starting another weight loss resolution that will leave you feeling hungry all the time, you may want to check out the concept of “Volumetrics”. It’s all about feeling full while trying to lose weight. Imagine being satisfied at the end of each meal, and between meals, with no hunger pangs to derail your commitment. Now that’s a diet you can stick to for life!

Volumetrics was developed by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. Based on her research on meal plans made up of different types and amounts of foods, she found that eating more foods with “low energy density,” rather than ones with a “high energy density,” can help you lose weight without feeling hungry.

What is Energy Density?

The energy density of a food is the number of calories (“energy”) in a certain amount of that food. Foods with a high energy density have more calories by weight than foods with a low energy density. Since we tend to eat the same amount of food each day, Dr. Rolls proved that by choosing foods with a lower energy density we could eat the same volume of food and lose weight without feeling deprived.

The biggest difference between the foods with high energy density compared to those with low energy density is their water content. Water has no calories, but does add weight to foods, so foods that are mostly water, like fruits and vegetables, have relatively low energy density. For example, 16 ounces of carrots have roughly the same number of calories as one ounce of peanuts; however, eating 4 large carrots weighing one pound is more filling than eating 28 peanuts that weight one ounce.

Another way to see how water content affects energy density is by comparing fresh fruit to dried fruit. If you have a dish with 20 fresh seedless grapes in it, they will weigh about 100 grams and contain 70 calories. When the water is removed from those grapes to make raisins they will shrink in weight to just 8 grams, and fill less than one tablespoon, but still contain 70 calories.

Adding more fruits and vegetables or liquids to recipes for soups, stews and casseroles is a way to make those dishes have a lower energy density, along with reducing the amount of fat they contain. When you do that, if you eat the same portion you are used to having, it will provide fewer calories yet leave you feeling satisfied.

High Energy Dense Foods

Foods high in fat tend to be the most energy dense, regardless of whether the fat is naturally occurring – as it is in certain cuts of meat, nuts and regular cheeses – or is added during preparation. I always like to remind my clients that one slice of bread with a tablespoon of butter has about the same number of calories as two slices of the bread without the butter. The question they have to answer is, “Which one will fill you up more?”

The key to including these higher fat/high energy dense foods in your Volumetrics diet is to combine smaller portions of them with low energy dense foods. Good examples are blending chopped mushrooms into your ground beef for burgers, sprinkling toasted nuts on a salad rather than eating them out of hand, and pairing an ounce of cheddar cheese with an apple instead of a stack of crackers.

What about Beverages?

Most beverages are more than 90 percent water so they have low energy density, even if they are relatively high in calories. However, Dr. Rolls’ research found that drinking more beverages, even plain water, does not provide the same satiety as eating low energy dense foods. The main reason to include plenty of water and low calorie beverages in your plan, like those sweetened with SPLENDA® Sweeteners, is to satisfy your thirst so you don’t confuse it with hunger. And it’s a valuable way to avoid adding unwanted calories from higher caloric drinks.

Here’s wishing you a very healthy and happy 2017!

 I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 


National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger

U.S. News and World Report Best Diets Ranking 2016. Volumetrics Diet


Posted in Calories, Hunger, Meal Patterns, Nutrition News, Obesity, SPLENDA LIVING, Taste, Weight Control and tagged , , , .

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