I just love thick and chunky salsa. It's a zesty, non-fat, low calorie treat that's great for dipping.
Especially with taco chips. But, ooops, 1 ounce (about 12 chips) provides 140 calories and 9 grams of fat.
Does that mean that taco chips are a "bad" food?
When I'm in the mood for an appetizer -- if I stop at 12 chips, then manage the rest of my fat for the day -- taco chips can fit comfortably into my well-balanced diet.
But that means understanding how grams of fat add up: If you know your fat limits, you can choose your favorite fats and still eat healthfully.
Not everybody knows that.
In a survey conducted by the Wirthlin Group for the American Dietetic Association, 17 percent of the people interviewed believed that all fat should be eliminated from the diet.
In addition, 77 percent of the people interviewed think there are "good" foods and "bad" foods, a misconception that leads folks to think they must give up their favorite foods to eat well.
In fact, major health organizations agree that most Americans could improve their diets by simply limiting fat to no more than 30 percent of calories.
But only 7 percent of the people interviewed knew the limits.
And, in general, I find that most people need help in figuring out just what "30 percent of calories from fat" actually means when making food choices.
Here's the straight scoop: Limit yourself to 33 grams of fat for every 1,000 calories you eat.
Women maintaining their weight (not trying to gain or lose) average 2,000 calories per day and can have 66 grams of fat.
Men at maintenance average 3,000 calories per day and can have 99 grams of fat.
Increasingly, food packages carry nutrition labels giving you fat in grams per serving. Just keep a daily running total for a while to see how much fat you eat. After a while, you can cut out your least favorite fats so that your "don't want to live withouts" still fit within your limits.
And if 12 taco chips just aren't enough, try some of these one-ounce, lower-fat substitutes.
* 8 Pepperidge Farm Wholesome Choice multi-grain crackers, 140 calories, 4 grams fat.
* 6 RyKrisp, 90 calories, 2 grams fat.
* Melba Rounds, 100 calories, less than 2 grams fat.
* 16 Mr. Phipps pretzel chips, 120 calories, 2 grams fat.
* 6 Triscuits, 120 calories, 4 grams fat.
* 5 Scooples, 110 calories, 0.5 grams fat.
To find other low-fat crackers, look for those that offer less than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories.
Or dip veggies in your salsa. They're non-fat, low in sodium, crisp and crunchy, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins and minerals.
For variety, try a mix: some taco chips, a few low-fat crackers, and a handfull of raw veggies. That's the best of all possible worlds!
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and director of Eating Together in Baltimore.