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Low-Fat, High-Volume Foods List

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Low-Fat, High-Volume Foods List
Kale and spinach at farmers market. Photo Credit ttatty/iStock/Getty Images


By incorporating foods with a low calorie density, you eat more food, feel more satisfied and still take in less calories. Barbara J. Rolls, PhD, pioneered the high volume, low calorie density way of eating. She conducted numerous studies supporting the hypothesis that people tend to eat the same amount of food--regardless of calorie density. If you focus on low calorie dense foods, you eat the same amount (or more) with fewer calories, resulting in successful weight loss. Calorie density refers to the amount of calories per gram of food--watery or air-filled foods are generally low in calorie density, while foods with a high fat content tend to be more calorie dense.


Vegetables offer the most variety in terms of high volume, low fat foods. Any dark green leafy vegetable provides a lot of nutrients and volume for little calories. Try kale, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard and romaine lettuce. Other green vegetables like broccoli, string beans, zucchini and asparagus also offer low calories and almost no fat per serving. Make salads with lettuce, peppers, artichokes, tomatoes and other green vegetables. Consider trading mashed potatoes and their relative high calorie density for a cauliflower puree. Instead of a scant 1/4 cup serving of corn, try 2 cups of steamed yellow squash. Remember, when enjoying your high volume, low fat foods do not sabotage your efforts by adding lots of fatty dressings and butter. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and citrus juices to enhance the flavors. You may also incorporate portion-controlled amounts of unsaturated fats (like olive oil) which are heart healthy, but still substantial in terms of calorie content.

For dessert, shun calorie dense cookies and candy in favor of fruits like apples, oranges, kiwi, grapes, berries, and grapefruit can be eaten in abundance and will satisfy your sweet tooth. Watch out for dried fruits--their calorie density is high because all the water has been removed and the sugars concentrated.


When selecting starches and carbohydrates with low calorie density, think airy. Air popped popcorn and puffed rice or wheat have far less calories and fat per cup than do nuts or granola. Cooked oatmeal absorbs a lot of water when cooked and makes a high volume, low calorie dense, low fat, and fiber-rich snack or breakfast. Substitute your regular pasta (1 cup at 200 calories) for stringy spaghetti squash (1 cup at 42 calories). Yams or sweet potatoes, although slightly denser than other vegetables, still possess a relatively low calorie density and no fat.


Protein sources with high fat content have a high calorie density. Avoid beef steaks, beef and pork ribs, shanks and dark meat poultry. Eating egg whites, buffalo, shellfish (like shrimp), white fish (cod, tilapia) and white meat turkey and chicken provides satisfaction with fewer calories. You could eat 3 oz of prime rib and take in almost 350 calories and 30 grams of fat or 3 oz of shrimp for 85 calories and 1 g of fat.

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