Weight-loss plan developed at Penn State named one of the nation’s best

Restaurant closures, supply chain disruptions, and employment changes have altered people’s eating habits to varying degrees this year. Research shows that people have had a hard time maintaining their weight. People who are looking to lose weight may want to consider Volumetrics, a diet developed by Penn State Nutrition Professor Barbara Rolls.

For each of the last 11 years, Volumetrics has shown up near the top of the U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of the best available diets. This year, Volumetrics tied for the ranking of No. 3 “Best Weight-Loss Plan,” while also appearing on the lists for “Best Overall Diets,” “Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets,” “Easiest Diets to Follow,” “Best Diets for Healthy Eating,” and “Best Diets for Diabetes.”

How Volumetrics works

According to Rolls, Volumetrics is a research-based diet that focuses on satiety, or feeling satisfied after eating. In Volumetrics, people are shown how to lower the calorie-density of their diet. Calorie density refers to the amount of energy, in the form of calories, that is contained in a volume of food.

“Volumetrics doesn’t ban any particular foods,” Rolls said. “It’s just that, as the calorie density goes up, you are encouraged to eat those foods in more moderate amounts.”

When low calorie-density foods like fruits and vegetables are substituted for higher-calorie density foods, people can eat their usual portions while managing calories.  This enables people to feel full and satisfied while losing weight. Volumetrics encourages people to eat a good balance of nutrients while comfortably controlling their hunger.

Rolls, Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutritional Sciences, has conducted a number of studies demonstrating that following Volumetrics leads to successful weight loss.

“In our research, people who ate a lower calorie-density diet were consuming between one to two pounds more food each day compared to people who were not reducing calorie density,” Rolls explained. “Over six months, the people on the reduced calorie-density diet ate fewer calories and lost significantly more weight.

“Other studies have shown that people who ate a low calorie-density diet for a year ate more food and felt less hungry.”

Rolls has written three books about Volumetrics. The “Volumetrics Weight Control Plan,” published in 2000, explores the science of satiety. “The Volumetrics Eating Plan,” published in 2005, focuses on practical dietary advice. 2012’s “The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet” contains a 12-week diet plan.

What to eat

“This is not about eating nothing but salads,” said Rolls. “It’s about substituting some lower calorie-density ingredients into your meals without sacrificing the flavor. So, in your favorite sandwich, put a bit less of the fatty meat and bulk it up with your favorite vegetables. Perhaps use mustard instead of mayonnaise.“

“We have shown that the calorie density in dishes like macaroni and cheese can be reduced by 20% to 30% without anyone noticing,” Rolls continued. “When you do this, people eat the same amount they would have of higher calorie-density macaroni and cheese. They do not feel hungrier after the meal, and they do not compensate at the next meal. Even three-to-five-year-old kids — who of course are not trying to lose weight but who are eating to feel satisfied — who ate this way for five days didn’t compensate by consuming additional food.”

The magic weight-loss ingredient

Rolls said that people often ask her if there is one ingredient that can help them lose weight, and there is: water. Water adds bulk to food and contains no calories at all.

Rolls also emphasizes that weight loss and healthy eating must be connected. Ultimately she wants to help people find a healthy eating pattern that they enjoy that will help with sustainable weight management.

“A lot of people think of managing weight and healthy eating as two different things. Volumetrics brings these together and emphasizes that, when people are eating fewer calories, it is more important than ever to eat a good balance of nutrients,” Rolls said. “One of my goals is to make sure that the concepts in Volumetrics become part of mainstream thinking about weight loss.”

About the rankings

To rank diets, U.S. News & World Report assembles a panel of experts in diet, nutrition, obesity, food psychology, diabetes and heart disease to rank diets by seven standards: ease to follow, short-term weight loss, long-term weight loss, nutritional completeness, safety, managing heart health, and managing diabetes.

Volumetrics was ranked No. 5 (tie) for best diets overall, No. 7 for best fast weight-loss diets, No. 8 for easiest diets to follow, No. 7 (tie) for best diets for diabetes, and No. 5 (tie) for best diets for healthy eating.

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