• Three Steps to Better Nutrition

    An eating program that provides all of the essential nutrients but limits fat consumption requires careful food selection, substitution, and preparation. The following suggestions should be useful for establishing more healthful eating habits.

    Food Selection

    If you follow the Food Guide Pyramid recommendations emphasizing grains, vegetables, and fruit, along with moderate amounts of milk and meat products-your diet will be high in nutrition and low in fat. You should, however, be very selective in the fat category. Because saturated fats such as those found in butter, cream, egg yolks, palm oil, and coconut oil raise blood cholesterol levels, you should consume these food items sparingly. Instead, select monounsaturated fats (such as olive, canola, and peanut oils) or polyunsaturated fats (such as safflower, sunflower, and com oils). Mono- and polyunsaturated oils tend to lower blood cholesterol levels and therefore might help reduce the risk of heart disease.

    The following contain less saturated fat than other choices in their category and are preferred selections: fish; poultry without skin; low- fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese; olive, peanut, sunflower, safflower, com, and canola oils.

    Food Substitution

    Most people have favorite foods they don't want to give up in spite of the fat content. The good news is that simple substitutions can reduce fat content without detracting from taste. For example, using evaporated skim milk in place of cream cuts fat and cholesterol content by more than 65 percent; and using plain nonfat yogurt or nonfat sour cream in place of sour cream on baked potatoes reduces cholesterol content by 90 percent-and supplies the body with twice as much beneficial calcium.

    Other useful substitutes are two egg whites in place of a whole egg, herbs rather than table salt, low-fat frozen yogurt or ice milk instead of ice cream, cocoa powder in place of chocolate squares in baked goods, and lemon juice or vinegar instead of high-fat salad dressings.

    If you have a sweet tooth, we suggest dried fruit (raisins, dates, figs, prunes, dried apricots) in place of candy, cookies, and fat-rich baked goods. If you prefer crunchy snacks like potato chips, consider lower- fat alternatives such as pretzels, baked chips, or carrot sticks.

    Food Preparation

    How food is prepared can increase or decrease the fat content. Frying can double and triple the calories in some foods. Using nonfat vegetable spray or a nonstick skillet can eliminate the fats and oils typically used for frying. It also is better to cook vegetables separate from meat so they won't absorb the meat fats. We suggest baked or broiled meats, and steamed or microwaved vegetables, for greatest retention of nutrients. Try not to add butter and salt to vegetables during cooking: It takes less salt and fat to make food taste good after cooking than during cooking.

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