General Nutrition

Eating Plan Tips

To control the amount and kind of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol you eat ....

  • Eat up to 6 ounces (cooked) per day of lean meat, fish and skinless poultry.
  • Try main dishes featuring pasta, rice, beans and/or vegetables. Or create "low-meat" dishes by mixing these foods with small amounts of lean meat, skinless poultry or fish.
  • Use cooking methods that require little or no fat - boil, broil, bake, roast, poach, steam, sauté, stir-fry or microwave.
  • Use about 5 to 8 teaspoon servings of fats and oils per day for cooking and baking, and in salad dressings and spreads.
  • Trim off the fat you can see before cooking meat and poultry. Drain off all fat after browning. Chill soups and stews after cooking so you can remove the hardened fat from the top.
  • Limit your average total daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg. Eggs and shellfish can be a major source of dietary cholesterol, but they're fairly low in saturated fat and total fat. Egg whites have no fat and no cholesterol.
  • Limit organ meats such as liver, brains, chitterlings, kidney, heart, gizzard and sweetbreads.
  • Choose fat-free (skim), 1/2% or 1% fat milk and nonfat or low-fat yogurt and cheeses. Keep the fat in dairy products to 1% or less.

To round out the rest of your eating plan...

  • Make 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a part of your day.
  • Eat 6 or more servings each day of breads, cereals or grains, pasta, dried beans or starchy vegetables.
  • Balance the calories you eat with 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days to avoid gaining weight.

Enjoying a variety of foods helps keep you healthy. No one food provides all the nutrients your body needs. Choose from a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains and lean sources of protein, including legumes, fish, low-fat dairy products and lean meats, to optimize nutrition and taste and promote a healthy weight.

Calories: 1,600 to 2,800 a day

The calorie is a measurement of the amount of energy provided by a food or recipe. Daily calorie needs vary with age, sex and activity level.

Average calorie goals per day:

  • 1,600 - Most women and some older adults
  • 2,000 - Adult average
  • 2,200 - Most men, active women, teenage girls and children
  • 2,800 - Active men and teenage boys

Tip: For general health and better weight control, try to distribute calories evenly at eating times throughout the day.

Protein: About 12 percent of calories

In a 2,000-calorie diet, 12 percent of calories from protein is 60 grams. Your body uses protein to make and maintain tissues such as muscles and organs. However, most Americans typically eat far more protein than they need. A high-protein diet is often high in fat and cholesterol.

You can get protein from a variety of sources. Legumes, poultry, seafood, meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds are your richest sources of protein. Grains and vegetables supply small amounts. Choose sources that are also low in fat.

Tip: Reduce emphasis on meats and other animal foods as part of your meals. Even if you don't eat any animal protein, you can easily get enough protein as long as you eat a variety of foods that provide enough calories to maintain your healthy weight.

Carbohydrates: About 55 percent to 65 percent of calories

Foods high in carbohydrates are used mostly for energy. Complex carbohydrates are the starches and fibers in grains, vegetables and legumes. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars in sweets, fruits and milk.

Tip: Try to eat most of your carbohydrates as complex carbohydrates. Your body absorbs complex carbohydrates more slowly than simple sugars for a more continuous energy supply. Complex carbohydrates also provide more nutrients and fiber than sweets.

Fat: About 20 percent to 30 percent of calories

Fat is your most concentrated energy source. Some fat is required in your diet for your body to function properly. Too much fat can have a negative impact on your health.

Different kinds of fat include:

  • Saturated. Major sources are butter, cheese, whole milk and cream, meat, poultry, chocolate, coconut, palm oil, lard and solid shortenings.
  • Polyunsaturated. Most vegetable oils contain polyunsaturated fat.
  • Trans. When vegetable oil is hydrogenated to form margarine or shortening, trans fatty acids are formed.
  • Monounsaturated. Olive and canola oils and nuts contain mainly monounsaturated fat.

Saturated and trans fats increase your risk of coronary artery disease by raising your blood cholesterol levels. High blood levels of cholesterol can lead to narrowing of your arteries and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Polyunsaturated fats lower your blood cholesterol but also seem to be susceptible to oxidation. Oxidation is a process that enables cells in your arteries to absorb fats and cholesterol. Over time, oxidation speeds the buildup of plaques, which narrow arteries.

In the right amounts, monounsaturated fats may help lower blood cholesterol and are resistant to oxidation.

Tip: Control calories from all fats. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, limit fat to about 65 grams daily. When you do use fat, try to choose monounsaturated sources, such as olive oil. Using oils in place of margarine also minimizes trans fats.

Saturated fat: No more than 10 percent of total calories

Although both trans and saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels, foods containing saturated fats are more prevalent in typical diets.

Tip: In addition to limiting fat, eat smaller portions and choose low-fat varieties of foods that contain saturated fat, such as meats, cheeses and milk.

Cholesterol: No more than 300 milligrams (mg) a day

Almost all foods made from animals contain cholesterol. Concentrated sources include organ meats, egg yolks and whole-milk products.

Tip: Limit cholesterol but don't overemphasize its significance. The primary dietary determinant of high blood cholesterol is saturated fat. For some people, however, dietary cholesterol can raise the level of blood cholesterol higher.

Sodium: No more than 2,400 mg a day

Sodium occurs naturally in foods. It also makes up 40 percent of table salt (sodium chloride). You need only a small amount of sodium - less than one-quarter teaspoon of salt - to help regulate fluid balance. Too much sodium may contribute to a rise in blood pressure, putting you at risk of heart attack and stroke.

Tip: Control sodium by limiting processed foods. Also cut back on the salt you add to food in cooking and at the table. As you use less salt, your preference for salt will lessen, allowing you to enjoy the taste of the food itself.

Dietary fiber: 20 to 35 grams a day

Dietary fiber is largely plant cell material that resists digestion. Insoluble fiber holds onto water, adding bulk and helping prevent constipation. It also reduces your risk of colon cancer. It's found mainly in vegetables, wheat bran and whole grains. Soluble fiber may help improve blood cholesterol levels and blood sugar control. Generous amounts are found in oats, legumes and fruits.

Tip: The best way to boost fiber is to eat a variety of whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruits. When buying breads or grains, look for the word whole on the label.