“Free foods” are those that help you get more bang for your buck because they contain a lot of water, fiber, and flavor, which fill you up without a lot of calories. This idea, which is not new, was the premise behind Volumetrics, a book published in 2000 by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., and Robert A. Barnett. Rolls is a researcher at Penn State University whose doctorate is in nutrition.
Roll’s theory of volumetrics is a classic because it’s geared toward allowing people to eat more food (particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, which are usually 80 percent to 95 percent water), while at the same time keeping the calories down and hunger pangs at bay. Rolls, who backed up her theories with promising research done back in 1998 and 2000, suggests eating a higher proportion of fiber-rich foods along with adequate portions of lean protein (think skinless chicken breasts, low-fat cheeses, and low-fat veggie burgers) and healthy fats from fish and other sources.
Here’s how to incorporate the volumetrics concept into your meals:
Choose very low-density (aka, low-calorie) foods
Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Try shopping at your local farmer’s market for the freshest, most delicious fruits and vegetables at a reasonable cost.
Limit starchy vegetables like corn, peas, and butternut squash since they’re higher in calories (although they do pack a great nutritional punch).
Drink nonfat or 1-percent milk only.
In your cooking, use clear soups or broths, without added fats.
Consume lean proteins: low-fat cheeses and vegetable protein, skinless chicken breast, broiled or grilled fish (no skin), 93-percent lean (or leaner) ground turkey or meat.
Limit high-density (aka, higher-calorie) foods
High-fat chips. Even the baked varieties are high in calories and do little to satisfy hunger.
Cookies. You know it: high in both fat and sugar.
Chocolate. Dark chocolate has antioxidants and therefore some health benefits, but try to limit yourself to a few small squares per sitting, especially if you’re working on weight loss.
Nuts. Again, these have health benefits but also a lot of calories per ounce, so use them sparingly.
Butter. Lite butters are better choices, but watch the amounts you use of those too.
Oils. Even though olive oil is very heart-healthy, like all other oils it packs about 120 calories per tablespoon, so again use sparingly.