Enjoy Your Food, But Eat Less

Janis Hunter,
Home & Garden Information Center

March is National Nutrition Month®, a great time to get your plate in shape. Before you eat, think about what and how much goes on your plate, in your bowl and in your glass. Over the day, include food from all food groups: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products, and lean protein foods. These foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories.

Get Your Plate In Shape Eat Right

To enjoy your food but eat less, follow these nutrition tips and make small adjustments to the amounts of food on your plate.

Take your time: Eat slowly, enjoy the taste and textures, and pay attention to how you feel. Recognize when you are hungry and when you’ve had enough to eat.

Use a smaller plate, bowl & glass: A smaller plate, bowl and glass allow you to finish your entire meal and feel satisfied without overeating.

Choose some foods more or less often: Healthy meals start with more vegetables and fruits, smaller portions of protein and grains, and fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk and dairy products. Make at least half your grains whole grains.

Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables plus beans and peas. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables all count. Choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables. Buy fruits that are fresh, dried, frozen or canned in water, and drink 100% juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.

Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt. Prepare foods with oils rather than with solid fats. Select lean cuts of meat or poultry, and keep the portions small. Eat seafood (fish and shellfish) twice a week. Vary your protein choices to include items such as nuts, beans, and eggs.

Read nutrition labels to compare the sodium (salt) content of foods, and choose those with lower numbers. Season foods with spices or herbs instead of salt.

Sip smarter: When you are thirsty, drink water or other calorie-free beverages, 100% juice, or fat-free milk. Limit sweet drinks and regular sodas, which usually contain a lot of sugar and are high in calories. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly. Limit to one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.

Eat naturally sweet fruits for dessert: To satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way, have a piece of fruit, fresh fruit cocktail or a fruit parfait made with yogurt. If you’d prefer a hot dessert, try baked apples topped with cinnamon.

Enjoy “treats” once in a while, not every day: Don’t eat “treat” foods every day and limit sweet treats to special occasions. Make major sources of saturated fats (e.g. desserts, pizza, cheese, sausages and hot dogs) occasional choices, not everyday foods.

Choose healthier options when eating out: If you eat out, check and compare nutrition information before deciding what to eat. Choose lower calorie menu options and dishes that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains. An easier way to control what is in your meals is to prepare food at home more often.

Get to know the foods you eat & find out what you need: Write down what you eat to keep track of how much you eat. Use the United States Department of Agriculture’s SuperTracker to find out what kinds of foods and how much you need to eat within your calorie allowance. SuperTracker, available at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov, is an online tool that gives you a personalized nutrition and activity plan. It tracks what you eat and your activities, and it provides tips and support to help you make healthy choices.

Compare nutrition information in foods: Look up and compare more than 8,000 foods in Food-A-Pedia, also available at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.

National Nutrition Month® is a time when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) reinforces the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme, “Get Your Plate in Shape,” reminds us to think about the foods we eat. It also supports the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate, USDA’s new healthy plate icon that shows food groups and portion control.


  1. “Enjoy Your Food, But Eat Less,” USDA’s 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series, www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.
  2. “Get Your Plate in Shape,” Eat Right, Food, Nutrition and Health Tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, www.eatright.org.

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