Low-confusion guide can provide a low-fat life


September 05, 1995|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,Special to The Sun

Q: I'm still confused about low-fat diets. Saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated -- make it simple for me. Fruits, vegetables, grains -- I couldn't possibly eat all that are recommended. I've cut back on red meat, but want a hamburger now and then.

A: Eating is so basic to life that it should be easier. So, for people who don't want to weigh and measure, here are some basic guidelines that will probably get you into the right ballpark.

* Let your body weight be your calorie guide. If your weight is stable, you're eating the right number of calories to maintain your current body weight. To lose weight, eat less. To gain weight, eat more.

* Eat only when you're hungry -- not bored, tired, agitated, angry, lonely or being pressured by some other person. Stop eating as soon as you're satisfied, not when your plate is clean or the bag is empty or you're too full to eat another bite.

* Your hand is a handy measuring tool. One cup is a pile the size of your fist. One-half cup will fit in your hand. Your palm is about the size of a 3-ounce portion of meat, chicken or fish.

* To build a low-fat eating plan, start with fruits, vegetables and grains. Make plant foods the focus of your diet. They'll help fill you up, reducing the temptation to eat higher-fat foods. Choose your favorites, decide how you will fit them in, then shop so they are on hand. The daily minimums include two fruits, three vegetables and six grains. Here are some easy ways to do it:

A serving of fruit is one medium piece of fresh fruit, 6 ounces of fruit juice or 1/2 cup of chopped canned fruit. Have juice or a small banana with breakfast and a fresh-fruit afternoon snack, and you're done with that group.

A serving of vegetable is 1/2 cup of cooked vegetable or 1 cup of leafy raw salad-type vegetables. Have lettuce and tomato on your lunchtime sandwich (one serving) or a bowl of vegetable soup alongside (one serving) or a small serving of raw veggies instead of chips (one serving). All of the above make three servings, and you're done! Or, at dinner, start with a small salad (one serving) and have 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen cooked vegetable (broccoli, spinach, carrots, mixed veggies) with your entree.

A serving of bread or cereal is one slice of bread or one-half of anything you could make into a sandwich (small bagel, English muffin, hamburger roll, pita pocket) or 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, corn or pasta or 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal.

Watch how easily six servings can fit. For breakfast have an English muffin (two servings) or cereal and a piece of raisin toast (two servings). At lunch, any kind of sandwich gives you two more. At dinner, an ear of corn (two servings) or 1 cup of rice (two servings) or 1/2 cup of cooked pasta and a slice of bread completes your six for the day.

* Limit meat, chicken or fish to 3 ounces per meal. To control saturated fat, limit red meat to two portions per week (that's where your hamburger fits in). Trim fat before cooking, then bake, broil, steam or poach.

* A kiss is a portion of fat. To control fat, limit added fat to no more than 6 teaspoons per day. A teaspoon is about the size of a Hershey's kiss. Or, if you're checking food labels, it's about 5 grams. Divide your fat like this:

Two teaspoons or less from animal fat -- butter, cream, half-and-half, cheese, sour cream -- to limit saturated fat. Take advantage of fat-free and low-fat versions of animal products like milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, frozen yogurt and sour cream.

Two 2 teaspoons or less from polyunsaturated fats -- corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, mayonnaise, margarine.

Two teaspoons or more from monounsaturated sources -- olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, peanut butter, olives, avocados.

If you have a health condition that requires a special or restricted diet, talk with your doctor, or ask for a referral to a licensed dietitian or nutritionist for a more personalized plan.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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