Volume eating is a strategy that allows for a high consumption of lower calorie foods. When you fill your plate it means you prioritize foods low in calories and high in fibre and/or water, like baby spinach and celery, and include a smaller portion of foods high in calories, fat and/or sugar like cheese and pasta. Sounds like no fun right? Wrong! There are many many ways you can make high volume foods taste good - that’s a big part of my job as a nutritionist!
I love this concept because it’s simple to implement and doesn’t involve calorie counting or depriving yourself of certain foods. It’s a great weight loss/maintenance strategy, and is a healthy habit that increases the amount of nutritious foods in your daily diet! Here’s a break-down of high, moderate and low volume foods and approximate portion sizes.
High volume foods, or foods where you don’t need to pay attention to portion size:
Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.)
Cruciferous veg (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, etc.)
Stem and other vegetables (peppers, onions, zucchini, celery, etc.)
Fruit, especially berries (this one is tricky as fruits are high fibre/water foods, but some are higher in sugar like bananas and mango. When it comes to higher sugar foods, think 1 banana or 1 cup chopped fruit).
Moderate volume foods, or foods where you should be mindful of portion size (think a fist-size for starchy/root veggies, whole grains & legumes, and a palm-size for meat protein):
Root vegetables (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.)
Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa)
Legumes (edamame, chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
Lean cuts of meat protein and fish
Eggs (two max.)
Low volume foods, or foods where you should be very mindful of portion size:
Fatty cuts of meat (half deck cards)
Cheese (4 dice portion)
Butter, Oils like olive, avocado, coconut (2 tbsp.)
Nuts & seeds and nut/seed butter (Golf ball size)
Avocado (half small)
Honey, Maple syrup (1 tsp.)
A good guide to follow when putting together a high volume meal:
Always LOTS of greens and vegetables! That can be raw leafy greens and/or raw or roasted veggies like celery, bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus or cabbage.
Includes one or two healthy fats like half a small avocado, a small handful of nuts or a creamy nut/seed based dressing using tahini or almond butter.
Add a small portion of protein like seafood, eggs, plant-based protein or lean meat protein.
Add a small portion of healthy carbs like sweet potato, squash or quinoa.
And remember, your eating day should resemble the shape of a diamond! The small point at the top is your small portion of breakfast, the wide point in the middle is your high volume lunch; your largest meal of the day, and the small point at the bottom is your smaller portion of dinner. Tip: try using a salad plate or smaller bowl for your dinner to avoid overeating!
A simple high volume lunch would be lots of leftover roasted cauliflower, and fresh Spring Mix greens, half a small can of tuna, a fist-size leftover roasted sweet potato, and a tahini lemon dressing. Voila!
One of my favourite high volume dinners is my Creamy Cauliflower Butternut Squash Risotto with Chicken Sausage. It sounds gourmet, but it’s simple - especially if you use frozen vegetables, which is totally fine!
Creamy Butternut Squash Cauliflower Risotto
2 tbsp. Butter
2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small yellow online, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag frozen cauliflower rice, or 1 small head cauliflower, riced
Splash white wine or stock
½ bag frozen, peeled and diced butternut squash (or fresh, but frozen is EASY!)
4 cups baby kale (or more!)
2 chicken sausages (I like Rule the Roost from Farm Boy!)
1 cup grated grana padano cheese
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Fresh basil or parsley
Heat oven to 425F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss diced squash in 1 tbsp. Of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Spread over half the baking sheet.
Add the sausages to the other half of the baking sheet (or BBQ them!), and bake squash and sausages for 20 minutes, tossing halfway.
While that’s baking, heat butter and remaining oil in a large frying pan over medium low heat. Let the butter cook until it smells nutty.
Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower rice and cover. Let thaw/cook for about 5 minutes or until warmed through.
Add half the cheese and a splash of wine or broth, stir and cook for an additional few minutes.
Add the cooked squash, stir to combine and turn heat to low.
Toss in all the kale leaves and toss to combine. Cook until just wilted, and remove pan from heat.
Slice the sausage.
Add a handful of fresh greens to each bowl (I like spring mix or arugula), top with about 1 ½ cups of the cauli risotto mixture, half a sausage and a sprinkle of cheese and lots of fresh basil. Enjoy!