Volume Eating

Research shows that people tend to eat the same volume of foods each day. Most Americans do what I like to call “power packing” where they pack the most amount of calories into that volume each day (think fast food, bakery items, high fat meats and dairy products). From a health and weight loss standpoint, you would be better off increasing the amount of low calorie foods to increase the overall volume of your meals. Sheer volume is what does the most in making you feel full. Your stomach is distended quicker which causes hormones to be sent to your brain that you have eaten and are full. Compare one pork sausage link for 100 calories to 3 cups of a mixed vegetable salad with 1/2 to 1 tbsp low calorie dressing for the same 100 calories. Which is going to actually fill you up? The salad right, on volume alone.

I talk a lot in class about focusing on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains to increase the volume of food without increasing calories. I have an example below to explain what I mean. I have adjusted this recipe for a “Tuna Noodle Bake” (totally made up, don’t know if you actually want to try it!) to cut calories by 1/3, cut fat grams by 90% (which is particularly important since most of the fat was coming from saturated fat) and cut the sodium in half.

Original Recipe
480 calories (235 from fat)
26 grams fat
1,100 mg sodium

8 oz egg noodles
2 tbsp butter
2 cans tuna, packed in oil
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter, melted

Modified Recipe
295 calories (45 from fat)
5 grams fat
640 mg sodium

8 oz whole-wheat egg noodles
2 cans tuna, packed in water
1 cup plain non fat yogurt
3/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper, 1/2 cup sliced zucchini, 1/2 cup sliced squash, 1/2 cup peas, 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tsp onion flakes
1/4 tsp each of paprika and tarragon
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

So you can see that I exchanged whole wheat egg noodles which will add protein and fiber. The tuna packed in water will decrease the fat as will the yogurt and skim milk in place of the sour cream and whole milk (especially saturated fat as well as cholesterol). Adding veggies is what really increases the volume here not to mention the added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! Focusing on alternative herbs and spices add flavor while decreasing the added salt. Getting rid of the bread crumbs and butter on top also help to slash the calories.

Remember, when you eat smart, you can eat more! The key to becoming a volume eater is to focus on those high volume, low calorie foods to round out meals. Have any of you found this helpful to do at home? How have you done it?
Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD