In the new approach to weight control, you might not have to count every calorie you put into your mouth, but that doesn't mean calories don't count: "If you can cut 500 calories a day, across the week, that could mean losing a pound," says research nutritionist Jana Landkammer, R.D.
One way to do that is to limit the snacks, especially the high-fat foods like cookies, nuts, and fried or oily nibble-foods. But "limit" is not the same as "eliminate," and, says Ms. Landkammer, "You can still have an occasional cookie."
Portion-control is important too: "Too much of a good thing is still too much," warns Karen Dennis, Ph.D. "You might be eating low-fat, high-fiber, nutritious bread, but if you eat the whole loaf, it's too much."
One of the advantages of the exchange system is that it's based on specific amounts of equivalent foods. For instance, one starch is worth 80 calories, and can consist of one slice of bread, or one-third cup of rice, or half a bagel, or half a cup of cooked pasta. If you have more than that, you're having more than one starch,and you have to adjust your intake accordingly.
Similarly, one fat is worth 45 calories, and can consist of 1 teaspoon of butter, margarine, oil or mayonnaise, or 1 tablespoon of cream cheese, diet mayo or diet margarine, or six dry-roasted almonds, five big olives, or 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds. If you're not careful, you can easily overdo the fat, even when you're just having a salad or buttering bread; but thinking about what you're eating, and how much, might help you avoid dietary mayhem.
How many fats, starches, fruits, vegetables, milks and meats you need, to lose or maintain your weight, depends on your age, sex, and activity level, and can be mapped out for you by a dietician. But then it's up to you to weigh and measure, write it down and review what you've had, until you can judge portion sizes just by looking, and can follow your new eating pattern on your own.
For information about ordering a copy of "Exchange Lists" call the American Dietetic Association at (312) 899-0040, Ext. 5000.