By Sandy Markiewicz, RD, MBA
By now you know that too much fat--especially
saturated fat--is not good for you. Your body can easily store excess
calories from fat as body fat. Plus, saturated fats from animal products,
such as meats and dairy foods, can clog your arteries and contribute to
But be careful. Although reducing dietary fat is
important, eliminating all fat from your diet is not at all healthy. Fat is
an essential nutrient that produces energy for daily activities and supplies
the body with vitamins A, D and E, which are needed for healthy skin and
optimal growth. The body cannot produce fat on its own; it must be provided
through dietary intake. For these reasons you should enjoy some fats in your
diet, especially monounsaturated fats like olive oil. The key is
Dietary fat is found in both animal and plant
foods. There are three basic classifications of fat: (1) monounsaturated,
(2) polyunsaturated and (3) saturated. Unsaturated fats--especially
monounsaturated fats--are considered the "healthier" ones. Sources of
unsaturated fats include nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and soft margarine
Research indicates that an excessive intake of
saturated fats tends to raise blood cholesterol levels, thereby
increasing risk for heart disease. Animal products--such as beef, butter,
dairy products and lard--typically contain more saturated fat than do
vegetable products. But some vegetable oils, such as coconut and palm oil
(also known as tropical oils), contain large amounts of saturated fat.
There's also an unclassified newcomer in the fat
realm--trans fatty acid. Trans fatty acids are
the end products of a process called hydrogenation, in which
vegetable oils are hardened. The implications that trans fatty acids
may play a negative role on health is currently being reviewed, but many
nutrition professionals are already advising a limited intake.
The Bottom Line
Health authorities recommend that Americans consume
30 percent or less of their total daily calories from fat, with 10 percent
or less of those calories from saturated fat. Use the Nutrition Facts panel
on food labels to help determine how much fat is in food. The following
chart can help guide your fat intake. Determine how many calories are in
your diet and use the chart to discover how many grams of fat are in 30
percent and 10 percent of your calorie intake. Remember, the recommended
percentages refer to your total fat intake over time, not the fat in single
foods or meals.
Calories per Day
Total Fat per Day (grams)
Total Saturated Fat per Day (grams)
40 or less
13 or less
53 or less
18 or less
67 or less
22 or less
73 or less
24 or less
83 or less
27 or less
10 Tips to Reduce Fat
To help cut down on your fat intake, use the
following tips when preparing foods:
1. Use evaporated skim milk instead of cream when
preparing sauces or desserts.
2. Create your own nonfat salad dressing by mixing
balsamic vinegar, mustard and herbs. If you really prefer an oil-based
dressing, try using three parts vinegar to one part oil.
3. Drain nonfat yogurt through a sieve or
cheesecloth overnight in the refrigerator, and use in recipes that call for
4. Saute foods in chicken broth, vegetable stock,
tomato juice or wine instead of frying them in oil or butter.
5. Keep olive oil in a spray bottle to a lightly
coat sauté pans.
6. You can make your own taco shells. Hang soft
corn tortillas directly over the oven rack (with the sides of the tortilla
hanging down) and bake at 400 degrees until they're crisp. (Taco
shells sold in supermarkets are usually fried.)
7. Whip up your own french fries. Place
_-inch-thick potato slices on a nonstick baking pan and coat with a light
spray of oil. Sprinkle with paprika or salt, and bake at 350 degrees for 35
to 40 minutes. Turn once during baking. (For a different flavor, try this
recipe with sweet potatoes.)
8. To maximize flavor, toast nuts before baking
with them. That way, you'll be able to use less. Or sprinkle nuts on top of
a home-baked dessert instead of mixing them into the batter.
9. Substitute six egg whites plus one whole egg for
every three eggs in your favorite recipes.
10. Substitute an equal amount of applesauce or any
baby-food fruits for up to half of the total oil in your favorite dessert
recipes. Strained prunes actually enhance the chocolate flavor in brownies!
Sandy Markiewicz, RD, MBA, is the president of
Nutrition Marketing Consultants, a consulting firm based in Chicago,
Illinois, that designs nutrition programs for personal trainers, health
clubs, corporations and individuals.
Reprinted from June 1997 IDEA Personal Trainer.
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