Food & Drink

Choose Wisely

Barbara Rolls has written the book "The Volumetrics Eating Plan".
Barbara Rolls has written the book "The Volumetrics Eating Plan".

This article originally ran on March 9, 2005

To feel satisfied and stay healthy, try to eat foods that naturally have lots of water and low energy density. Barbara Rolls recommends including high-water foods in your meals. For example, use low-fat salad dressing and put extra vegetables in your salad so you'll get more food but eat fewer calories.

Fruits, vegetables and soups are 80 percent to 95 percent water; cooked pasta is 65 percent. Bread is 35 percent to 40 percent water. Oil has no water. Energy density varies by food and category.

Here are a few examples:

Very low energy-density foods:

Low energy-density foods:

Medium energy-density foods:

High energy-density foods:

Source: "The Volumetrics Eating Plan" by Barbara Rolls water in your food

Mediterranean Turkey Sandwich

Makes 4 sandwiches

3 tablespoons nonfat mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste

8 thin slices multigrain bread

6 ounces oven-roasted or smoked sliced deli turkey breast, about 8 slices

1 cup baby spinach

Stir the mayonnaise and tomato paste together.

Spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture on each of 4 slices of the bread. Divide the turkey among the bread slices. Cut the avocado and cucumber into 8 slices. Top the turkey with 2 slices of avocado

Nutritional information per serving: calories, 300; carbohydrates, 41 grams; fat, 7 grams; protein, 19 grams; fiber, 7 grams Recipe from "The Volumetrics Eating Plan"

Food-loving dieters and health-conscious scale-watchers take heart: It's possible to feel full and eat well.

It's called Volumetrics, and Barbara Rolls, a professor and obesity expert at Penn State, tells you how it works in her new book, "The Volumetrics Eating Plan." Rolls said it's not a fad and she doesn't have a quick fix, but she does have a practical, tested method for losing weight or maintaining your weight and staying healthy.

"I think that what's happening is people really are getting dissatisfied with fad diets," she said. "They're running out of things they can do."

There have been low-fat and low-carb trends, but people in this country still are getting fatter, said Rolls, who holds the Guthrie chair of nutritional sciences and directs the laboratory for the study of human ingestive behavior at the university.

According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 65 percent of adults are overweight or obese, compared with 56 percent in the 1988-94 study.

Now, Rolls said, people might be ready to pay attention to professional nutritionists. Rolls' volumetrics approach is garnering national attention. It was featured last week on the front page of U.S. News and World Report, and she appeared Monday on NBC's "Today" show.

The key to volumetrics is eating foods that are water-rich and have fewer calories per gram. Rolls' research in the Penn State laboratory has shown that people who eat those water-rich foods consume fewer calories but still feel satisfied. Having broth-based soup at the beginning of a meal, for example, will help a diner eat less during the main course without feeling deprived.

Food choices that contain lots of water, such as apples, have a low energy density, while foods that pack a lot of calories into a small serving, such as peanut butter, are high in energy density, according to Rolls' book. Low energy-density foods help fill you up, without filling out your waistline. Think pasta with vegetables instead of pasta with butter.

Eating more fiber and less fat also will help you maintain a low-density diet.

Rolls doesn't advocate giving up favorite foods, only eating them in moderation as part of balanced and sustainable diet.

Her book has recipes to prove that losing weight doesn't mean a life of austerity. There's "Jennifer's Fruit-Smothered Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes," the "Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwich" and "Charlie's Pasta Primavera." It also has tips, charts, suggested eating plans and lists of foods by their energy densities.

The recipes, many of which come from Rolls' partner, Charlie Brueggebors, are aimed at what people can make every day without specialty ingredients.

Those recipes, along with tips on healthy eating, strategies for weight loss, informational charts on food and ideas illustrated with photographs are in "The Volumetrics Eating Plan," which went on sale March 1. It builds on Rolls' book "The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan." Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648.