Monthly Health Message:

Reducing Portion Sizes for Better Health

October 2012

Karen Ensle EdD, RD, FADA, CFCS, FCHS Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

In America, there is a tendency to eat more than we realize. With just a small amount of time planning ahead, you can decrease your daily food/calorie consumption by reducing your meal portion sizes by a modest amount. Remember, taking small steps such as reducing your caloric intake by 100 calories (approximately 33 calories for each of the 3 main meals) a day, will mean you will have lost (or not gained) 10 pounds in one year. Most people will not notice the cutback but meanwhile you have been contributing to a healthier lifestyle.

Choose one or more of the following to help you to reduce your meal portion sizes:

  • Prepare your meal plate and put the leftovers away before eating. Remember, out of sight, out of mind, plus you will not be tempted to eat more after the meal while you are cleaning up and storing the leftovers.
  • Repackage foods into serving sizes before storing/serving. Do not eat from the packages food or snacks come in.
  • Use a small plate or bowl and small fork as your brain still thinks you have eaten a full plate of food even though it is just a smaller plate.
  • Cook several meals at the same time and freeze in meal size containers. By pre-portioning meals, you create a stopping point in your eating. You will tend to eat less as you will have had time to think about whether you really want or need to eat more.
  • Serve meals blue-plate style which means filling your plate with reasonable portions. You will need to make an extra effort to get a second helping and chances are, you will decide not to refill your plate as you really do not need it.
  • Have someone else, who knows how much you should be consuming prepare your meal plate for you.
  • Serve up your plate with small portions. Your eyes are usually larger than your stomach and what you need. Most people have been trained by their family to eat all the food on their plate, even if they are full. Make a commitment to change this strategy to eating less at all meals and stick with wholesome snacks like fruit, veggies, yogurt, low-fat cheese and crackers or other healthy foods.
  • Stay away from chips, dips, candy, soda and sweets. These need to be "blue moon" foods that you eat once in a while.
  • Learn to say no-thank-you to yourself or others when offered food after you are full or have just eaten a meal.
  • Use a portion divided plate to give you a good sense of how the different food groups should be portioned.
  • Measure and/or weigh portions until you are acquainted with reasonable portion sizes. Guessing how much should eat can be inaccurate and deceptive.
Read more: Decreasing Portion Sizes from the USDA.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences