Monthly Health Message:

Small Changes to Cut Calories

September 2017

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

Cutting calories can be accomplished by making some small changes in your home and your actions around food with your family. Sometimes we think we control everything we eat; however, our surroundings and other people influence our food choices and how much we consume. The average person does not realize that the dinner plate size they use makes a difference in how much they eat. Try these changes to reduce your calorie intake:

  • Serve meals “blue plate style” by filling supper plates with food and then sitting at a table for the family meal. Serving food in bowls on the table will influence how much you eat and allow you to go back for second or third portions. Extra portions add more calories at that meal!
  • Buy smaller amounts of sweet, dessert foods and salty snacks. These foods add more calories, fat, salt and sugar to your diet that you don’t need. Make fruits and vegetables your snack food or try a 6-ounce Greek yogurt that will add protein to your diet and only a small number of calories. To eat less of typical snack foods like chips, pretzels and popcorn, buy them in either large bags which you can then divide into smaller plastic snack bags or containers—OR buy 100 calorie packaged snacks if you are willing to pay a higher price for the extra packaging.
  • Choose healthy snack options like carrots, celery sticks, cucumber rounds, or cherry tomatoes , a handful of nuts, or a ripe piece of fresh fruit. For beverages, use tall, skinny glassware rather than short, wide glasses as the thin, tall ones actually hold less fluid, which means fewer calories. Research estimates you will consume about 29% less. If you are drinking a sugar-sweetened beverage, it means cutting your calories by almost one-third by choosing a different shaped glass.
  • Serve main meals on nine or ten-inch luncheon-type plates. Smaller plates mean fewer calories for that meal.
  • Store food and snacks in cabinets or the refrigerator, not on the counter. “Out of sight, out of mind” or the opposite if you leave food on the table or counters. “What I see, is what I will eat”.
  • Avoid eating in front of the television. Center your meals on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy and a lean protein source. Half the plate should be vegetables and fruit. Make sure you have a salad or raw vegetables at least once a day. Eat whole grains as much as possible. The recommendation is to make half of your daily grains be whole grain. Pay attention to what you are eating by being “mindful” of your actions.
  • Drink a glass of water before every meal and drink water as your “beverage of choice”. You will be cutting calories by eliminating sugar sweetened beverages. Remember, eliminating one can (12 ounces) of sugar- sweetened beverage per day could mean a weight loss of 20+ pounds a year.

Try these easy changes. By making healthier food choices, you will reduce your calories and your body weight. Centering your dietary intake on healthy foods that are lower in fat, sugar and calories will help to strengthen your body against major diseases including obesity, heart disease and certain cancers. Forget all those weight loss diets and just eat smaller portions of healthy foods and you will see a big difference over time.


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