Healthier, lower-fat diet just a tablespoon away

Eating Well

March 05, 1996|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

We could save a billion dollars a year by replacing one tablespoon of butter with one tablespoon of olive oil each day.

That's a difference of about 7 grams of saturated fat, enough to prevent 100,000 heart attacks in the next decade.

Love your butter? Try a different approach. Eat 1 ounce less cheese per day. Or substitute skim milk or fat-free yogurt for whole milk. Try replacing your usual Taco Bell Burrito Supreme with a Border Light. Or have butternut squash instead of creamed spinach at Boston Market. It's not the particular food that matters, but the saturated fat content that counts.

The elimination of 7 to 10 grams of saturated fat each day by healthy people whose blood cholesterol level is above 200 milligrams per deciliter is the key to better health. A mere 3 percent less saturated fat could prevent between 32,000 and 100,000 coronary heart disease events, like heart attacks and sudden deaths, over the next 10 years.

And that adds up to hefty health-care savings. A total of $4.1 billion to $12.7 billion can be saved in one decade, according to research conducted by Policy Analysis Inc. of Brookline, Mass., and published last month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Authors Gerry Oster and David Thompson estimate that 44 million Americans between the ages of 35 and 69 have blood cholesterols above 200, but have no symptoms of heart disease. Right now, we're averaging 12 percent of total calories from saturated fat. That's about 27 grams a day for people eating 2,000 calories a day, or 40 grams a day for those eating 3,000 calories. At that rate, 3 million of those otherwise healthy people will develop heart disease in the next 10 years. Half of the casualties will have only "moderately high" cholesterols (200-240 milligrams per deciliter).

Half will be under 50 years of age.

Mr. Oster and Mr. Thompson predict that lowering saturated fat intake from 12 percent to 9 percent of total calories will prevent 100,000 first-time coronary events at a cost savings of $13 billion by the year 2005. That means: Limit your saturated fat to 20 grams a day if you eat 2,000 calories a day, or 30 grams a day if you eat 3,000 calories a day.

And it's not that hard to do.

Saturated-fat information is on the Nutrition Facts label on just about every food you buy, and fast-food shops can provide you with nutrition information (but you usually have to ask for it). Using those tools, you can compare your usual selections with those lower in saturated fat and make some better choices

If this seems too confusing, invest in a couple of sessions with a registered dietitian. Most likely, your health insurers won't cover it. They'd rather pay for your hospitalization after your heart attack, your balloon angioplasty or your bypass surgery. But it's hard to save a billion dollars that way.

However you do it, just do it. Be a patriot. Drop 7 grams of SatFat a day!

Think fast

Like fast food? OK. But if you're going to indulge, indulge intelligently (the number of grams of saturated fat follows each food):

Where: Instead of . . . Have . . .

McDonald's

1/4 Pounder w/cheese .... 11 .... Filet-o-Fish ..... 4

Big Mac ..... .... .... 9 ..... Chicken Fajita ... 2

Sausage Biscuit/Egg ... 10 .... Pancakes/Syrup/2 margarine .. 2

Iced Cheese Danish .... 6 Fat .. Free Apple Bran Muffin ......0

Taco Bell

Burrito Supreme ....... 9 ..... Border Light Burrito Supreme .3

Hardees

Mushroom Swiss Burger .. 13 ... Turkey Club ...... ...... ... 4

Bacon Cheeseburger ..... 16 ... Regular Roast Beef ..... .... 4

Wendy's

Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger .. 8 ... Small Chili ....... ......... 1

Large Frosty ....... .... 9 ... Chocolate Milk ...... ....... 3

Roy Rogers

1/2 Roaster: Dark w/Skin .. 10 ... 1/2 Roaster: Dark, No Skin ... 3

1/2 Roaster: White w/Skin .. 9 ... 1/2 Roaster: White, No Skin .. 2

Cinnamon Raisin Biscuit .. 5 ... Cinnamon Raisin Bagel ...... 0

Boston Market

Chicken Pot Pie ..... .... 9 ... 1/4 Dark Meat/No Skin .... ... 2

Caesar Salad ....... ..... 12 .. Zucchini Marinara ..... .... .5

Creamed Spinach ..... .... 15 .. Butternut Squash ..... ..... 4

OR

J... ..... ..... ..... ..... ... Mashed Potatoes/Gravy .. ... 5

.... .... ..... ..... ...... ... Buttered Corn ..... .... ... 1

.... .... .... ...... ...... ... New Potatoes ...... .... ... .5

.... .... .... ...... ...... ... Steamed Vegetables .... ..... 0

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