Monthly Health Message:

Holiday Portion Control Keeps Weight Off

December 2014

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

  • Get Food Portions Right: The top nutritional habit of slim people is to stick with modest food portions at every meal, five days a week or more. "Always slim" people do it and successful weight losers do it too, according to a Consumer Reports survey. After measuring portions a few times, eating smaller amounts of food can become automatic. Make it easier with small "snack" packs and by keeping serving dishes off the table at meal time.
  • Try the 80-20 Rule: Americans are conditioned to keep eating until they're stuffed, but residents of Okinawa eat until they're 80% full. They even have a name for this naturally slimming habit: hara hachi bu. We can adopt this healthy habit by dishing out 20% less food, according to researcher Brian Wansink, PhD. His research studies at Cornell University show that most people don't miss the food.
  • Eat Out Your Way: Restaurant meals are often high in fat and calories, so consider these special orders that keep portions under control:
    • Split an entrée with a friend.
    • Order an appetizer as a meal.
    • Choose a small portion size (e.g., half portion, senior meal)
    • Place half the meal in a doggie bag as soon as it is brought to the table.
    • Complement a smaller entrée with extra salad for the right balance, making half the plate filled with veggies.
  • Reach for the Red Sauce: Choose marinara sauce for pasta instead of Alfredo sauce. Tomato-based sauces tend to have fewer calories and much less fat than cream-based sauces. But remember, portion size still counts. A serving of pasta is one cup or roughly the size of a tennis ball.
  • Go Meatless More Often: Eating vegetarian meals more often is a slimming habit. Vegetarians tend to weigh less than meat eaters. While there are several reasons for this, legumes may play an important role. Bean burgers, lentil soup, and other tasty legume-based foods are simply packed with fiber. Most Americans get only half of this important nutrient, which fills you up with fewer calories.
  • Burn 100 Calories More and Lose 10 pounds in a Year: Live without dieting and burn an extra 100 calories every day. Try one of these activities:
    • Walk 1 mile for about 20 minutes.
    • Practice yoga for 20 minutes.
    • Ice skate for 20 minutes
    • Ski Downhill for 10 minutes.
    • Shovel. snow for 15 minutes.
    • Clean house for 30 minutes.
    • Jog for 10 minutes.
Celebrate when you've kicked the soda habit or simply made it through the day without overeating. Small steps can bring you closer to a slimming lifestyle that helps you lose weight without crazy or complicated diet plans.


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