Hara hachi bu 腹八分

In the United States 17 people per 100,000 population live to at least 100 years old. By contrast, the island of Okinawa has the highest concentration in the world at 35 per 100,000, more than double the United States. Gerontologists believe there are several factors that contribute to a population imbued with such longevity, with eating a healthy diet high on the list. Okinawans diets are high in fish, fruits and vegetables and they eschew dairy, refined grains and highly processed foods.

Another factor is their practice of “hara hachi bu.” This roughly translates to “…eat about 80% of what one needs to be satisfied.” Wow, a cultural-based system of portion control! With metabolic disorders including obesity almost absent from the island, and extreme longevity the standard, this ancient practice has served the Okinawans well.

Can Americans modify some of our eating habits to shave 20% of our calories off our daily intake? I crowdsourced the answer by asking my personal fitness training and lifestyle & health clients what they do to reduce calories here and there.

Trader Joe’s Guacamole

This hybrid version blends Greek yogurt into the guacamole. Result: 40% fewer calories. The next time you go dipping, try this skinnier dip.

Stella Artois Beer®

Besides being a fabulous beer, their bottles contain 11.2 ounces, rather than the traditional 12 ounces. This small change saves about 10 calories a bottle. Over the course of a nine-inning game, how many calories will you save?

Pam Non-stick Cooking Spray

Pam or other lite spray cooking oils contains about 7 calories per spray. Contrast this with 40 calories for olive oil or 102 for a teaspoon of butter. Pam, you go, girl.

Grated Cheese

One slice of American or Cheddar cheese contains approximately 95 calories, according to the USDA. Substituting 2 tablespoons of grated cheese will provide the same cheesy taste at about 74, thus saving 22% of the calories. This is a healthy way to cut the cheese.


Hellmann’s dijonnaise contains only 13 calories per serving, compared to 90 for their regular mayo. Even lite mayo, at 35 calories a serving, contains twice the caloric content of their dijonnaise. Try it on your next sandwich…see what you think. By the way, doesn’t the word dijonnaise sound so French? Oo la la!

Gin & Tonic

On hot and humid Bombay evenings, nothing cooled an officer’s palate better than a gin and tonic. This quintessential British drink can pack a lot of calories though, as the tonic contains 80 calories per serving. If you are the mixologist at home, you can buy 3-calorie diet tonic and save a whopping 77 calories a drink. What to do if you are out on the town, as few if any establishments use diet tonic? One savvy client told me how she shaves calories by asking the bartender to make her G&T with ¾ club soda and ¼ tonic. “Squeeze in a wedge of lime and you can’t tell the difference,” she extolls. I say, “Excellent call! Carry on, Sergeant Major.

These incremental caloric savings may not seem like a lot, but they really add up, especially over time. Many researchers believe that the ability to metabolize 100 calories per day is the difference between being normal weight and overweight, so making small changes can pay big dividends. These are the tips I’ve learned from my clients. I’d love to know how you cut out a few calories each day. Comment back your calorie shaving tips.

How do you hara hachi bu?