Eat more, weigh less: These low-calorie foods will fill you up at every meal

Massive dinners have never looked better.

Caroline Roberts Digital Editorial Intern
Caroline Roberts writes articles and notifications for CNET. She studies English at Cal Poly, and loves philosophy, Karl the Fog and a strong cup of black coffee.
Caroline Roberts
4 min read

A big chicken salad is the perfect volumetrics meal.


Has anyone ever told you that your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Or do you find yourself ever wanting to just sit down and eat a big plate of food? For some of us, it doesn't really matter what we're eating -- we just want to eat a lot of it. There's nothing inherently wrong with having a big appetite, but when you choose less than nutritious meals it can put you in a bind. I can't count the number of times I've dug into a big dinner of pizza or nachos only to be laid up with a stomach ache for the rest of the evening.

If you don't want to give up your daily feasts but are interested in eating healthier, I've got good news for you, and it's called the volumetrics diet, or volume eating. The volumetrics diet is a way of thinking about what you eat that will allow you to consume nutritious food to your heart's content -- all while literally eating less.

Read more: Best healthy food delivery services in 2020

What is volume eating and how do I do it?

Meat And Vegetables On Barbecue Grill

Meat and vegetables are two volumetrics diet staples.

Fabian Krause / EyeEm

Volumetrics eating is pretty much exactly what it sounds like -- you fill most of your plate with food that has a low-energy density, which means it contains less calories per volume. These foods tend to be high in fiber, water and vitamins, so you're still getting plenty of nutrients. Basically, you get to eat a larger amount of food while taking in less calories.

A volumetrics diet will mainly have you chowing down on vegetables, whole grains and lean protein (more on that later.) Because dietary fats have a high energy density, it may not sound like they fit into volume eating, but if you choose to go this route you should definitely still incorporate a substantial amount of healthy fats into any diet. Fats give you energy that's necessary for cell growth, organ protection and many more crucial functions. Healthy sources of fats include nuts, seeds and plant-based oils.

Following a volumetrics diet also doesn't mean that you have to completely give up any foods with high energy density -- sustainable diets are all about moderation. You should feel no shame about indulging in a moderate portion of dessert or another sweet. Just make sure that the majority of your diet comes from high-volume foods.

Of course, the same rules as regular diets still apply -- if you eat too many high volume foods and consume more calories than you burn, you'll gain weight. If you're concerned about eating the right number of calories, it may be worth it to try counting calories.

Read more: Best air fryer of 2020: Ninja, Philips, Cosori, Dash and more 

Why should I try it?


If you're interested in losing weight, it may be worth it to give volume eating a shot.

Getty Images

Perhaps you find yourself eating enough for your energy needs, but never really feel "full." Or, you want to snack just to keep your hands busy, but aren't actually hungry. Maybe you're even trying to lose weight without feeling deprived. All of those are solid reasons to try the volumetrics diet. This style of eating allows you to eat large quantities of many foods so that you feel full without taking in excess calories.

Since volume eating is so flexible, almost anyone can make it work for their dietary requirements, but it may be more alluring to select groups of people. 

Really, volume eating is good for anyone who just likes eating a lot. And the power of volume eating to make you feel full is backed up by science -- research suggests that people feel more satiated when they eat a larger perceived volume of food, even when the total calories remained the same.

High-volume foods to try


High volume foods will tend to be unprocessed.

Getty Images

The low energy density of high-volume foods usually comes from the fact that they contain a lot of water and fiber, or minimal amounts of fat. So, when following a high-volume eating plan you'll want to choose minimally-processed foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean protein sources (and don't forget to consume sufficient fat.)

Here are some examples of high volume foods to get you started -- once you get the hang of identifying these, feel free to get creative with your diet.


  • Salad greens (lettuce, kale, arugula)
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli


  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Stone fruit (peaches, plums)
  • Melon (watermelon, cantaloupe)


  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Air popped popcorn
  • Potatoes


  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
  • Fish
  • Skinless white meat poultry (chicken, turkey)
  • Eggs

You probably already incorporate a lot of these foods into your diet already, so a day of volumetrics eating won't look too unfamiliar. Breakfast could be eggs scrambled in olive oil with a side of fruit and black coffee. 

Lunch and dinner would consist of a plate full of mostly vegetables with some lean protein and carbohydrates on the side. For snacks, grab a small handful of nuts and pair it with some air-popped popcorn or fruit.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.