Getting Started With Good Staples
Reducing your dietary intake of fat and cholesterol is the safest, surest course of action. You'll probably be able to avoid drugs and medicine, or the possible side effects from suddenly increasing your amounts of fiber, niacin, or fish oils.
But there is a down-side -- it places the ultimate burden on your own ability to plan and control. There is no simple pill to take, no injection that will clean up your arteries after years of unhealthy eating. While you can use the methods, meal plans, and recipes given in this and the following articles, no one will be standing over your shoulder watching what you put in your mouth.
Fortunately, there is an organized procedure that you can follow that will guide you along the way.
To begin with, you have just one overall goal to obtain -- reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet. According to the National Institute of Health, "it is recommended that all Americans reduce their consumption of fat from the current average of 40% of total calories to no more than 30 percent." They also recommend a maximum of 300 mg of cholesterol each day -- about the amount from one whole egg. If you know you have a high cholesterol level, however, you should strive for 20% or less of your calories from fat and as little cholesterol -- less than 100 mg -- if possible.
As a general rule:
1. Eat less total fat - less than 20% per day of total calories.
2. Eat less saturated fat - less than 10% per day of total calories.
3. Eat food with less cholesterol. Strive for as little as possible, below the recommended 300 mg/day for the average person.
4. Substitute unsaturated fat for some of the saturated fat - less than 10% of the daily calories should come from saturated fat; the rest from unsaturated fats.
5. Increase complex carbohydrates if you're not trying to lose weight at the same time. This replaces the calories lost through decreasing fat intake.
6. Read the labels of the products you intend to buy.
7. Ask questions when you are selecting food in restaurants and bakeries.
Since you have to monitor daily intake, you can't eat all the fat and cholesterol you want for breakfast, like one egg, and eat foods totally devoid of fat for lunch and dinner. That's where planning comes in. You have to plan what you are going to eat, and in what quantities, so you know your daily totals will be within the maximum you want to achieve. Counting or measuring your portions is critical, particularly with high-fat foods. If you're lucky, you'll have a few grams of fat left over at the end of the day for a small snack as a reward.
Start by thinking about the quantity of food required to sustain your life for the day, make you feel comfortable, and satisfy your tastes. Then divide that food into the entire day, not duplicate it at every feeding. Nutritionally, you'll be getting everything that is required -- especially if you supplement it with a good quality multi-vitamin which we highly recommend.
If you think of this planning as "one meal spread out the entire day" then you are doomed to failure. Remember that a meal is simply the amount of food you eat at one sitting. The thought of eating just one meal per day spells DEPRIVATION. It locks in the old concept of what a meal is, and makes you think of courses instead of simply food.
No matter how you spread out your daily food, each eating will be a meal.
But as an example, for a daily intake of 1500 calories, 33.33 grams of fat would equal the desired twenty percent. So that half- bag of low-cholesterol chips you had with lunch -- say four ounces at ten grams of fat per ounce -- is already over your daily limit, leaving nothing for the breakfast, the rest of lunch, and dinner. One hot dog has about 14 grams of fat, three rich cookies have 8 grams of fat, and a slice of pizza may have 16 grams of fat. With the chips that scant food totals 78 grams, closer to twenty percent of 3500 calories.
Computing the percent of calories that you consume as fat, and your intake of cholesterol, is a simple task, even if slightly time consuming. It's necessary, however, since you won't be able to monitor your fat intake, and thus reduce it, until you know the amount and type of fat in the food you eat. Most of the information you need to monitor and reduce your cholesterol is given in this book, on the nutrition information labels of products you purchase, or directly from food manufacturers themselves.
Because a lot is involved here, let's go through the procedure step by step. To begin with, we'll use the daily worksheet in CNTFAT.DOC (a Word document downloadable by clicking on the link -- print the document for your daily use), and the chart in FATS.DOC to get started. FATS.DOC includes a list of common foods with the amount of fat, cholesterol and calories in specified amounts. Some of these amounts are for specific brands, so you'll have to check the figures against the particular product that you buy. You'll use this chart to total the amount of fat in your own recipes and to estimate food you eat out.
Just because one food is "better" than the next doesn't mean it can be eaten with abandon. Margarine is a good example. A soft margarine made with mainly polyunsaturated fats is preferred over butter. But the margarine may still contain 6 grams of fat or more per tablespoon, a third or fourth from saturated fat. Spreading a thick layer of margarine is better than the same amount of butter, but you'll still be eating unnecessary fat.
Always make sure you count or weigh the portions so they contain the fat, cholesterol, and calories figured in the recipe. You can always add less oil or margarine, and salt and sugar for that matter, but expect the taste and texture to change. Use an inexpensive kitchen scale, don't try to judge the portion size in the beginning since you'll probably over estimate. If a recipe lists 3 ounces of meat for a serving, weigh the meat before putting it on the plate. After a while, your ability to judge weights and amounts will improve and you'll be less dependent on the scale.
As an extra control, arrange the food on the plate then store the remainder in the refrigerator before serving. Once wrapped and stored, you'll be less tempted to take that extra helping.
Shopping For Fat
Even with the material supplied here, it is vital that you cut out and save the product labels of purchased ingredients and prepared products. Remember, the goal is not just to monitor what you eat but to reduce it, substituting unsaturated for saturated fats where possible, avoiding the "bad" fats and high cholesterol foods.
If you prepare your own foods, the place to begin doing this is in the market by carefully reading the nutrition information and ingredient labels. Don't let words like "light", "low-fat", and "no cholesterol" fool you into buying a product before you've proven it to yourself. Only 55% of the food items in the market are required by law to have nutrition labels in the first place and the words like "light" and "low-fat" are practically meaningless. For example, the term "light" should only be used on products with 1/3 less fat than comparable products. But no government agency enforces the law to make sure the comparisons are legitimate. While a product may be "light" compared to a fat-rich alternative, it may still contain animal fats, saturated vegetable fats, and cholesterol in quantities greater than you should eat.
Along the same lines, the words "Made from 100% vegetable oil" mean very little. Read the ingredients to make sure the product doesn't contain saturated fats such as palm and coconut oils, or hydrogenated unsaturated fats.
Due to public pressure, more companies are replacing lard and tropical oils with healthier substitutes. If you are shying away from a product because of its contents, check the label periodically to see if the manufacturer finally made the right decision. If not, continue to buy something else, but always looking for new and better products.
To make it easier on yourself, here are some simple shopping tips. Copy them into an index card and carry them with you to the market.
BUY products containing:
Unsaturated (and unhydrogenated) vegetables oils such as corn, sunflower, soybean, walnut, and safflower; or if necessary olive and peanut
Egg WHITEs only
At least twice the grams of unsaturated than saturated fats
Less than 20% calories from fat -- Multiply the grams of fat by 9. The result should be less than one fifth the total calories.
Skim milk and skim milk products
Fresh vegetables and fruit
Meat graded "good"
Light meat poultry with the skin removed
Fish, except lobster and shrimp
DON'T buy products containing:
Animal fat (lard), palm or coconut oils, or hydrogenated vegetable oils
Whole eggs or egg yolks
More saturated fats than unsaturated fats
Products with more than 20% of the calories from fat
Butter, cream, cheese (except low fat), whole milk, and whole milk products
Meat graded "prime", the grade having the highest fat content
Poultry with the skin
Lobster and shrimp
Cheese not made from skim milk
Pork, processed luncheon meats, organ meats
Gravies, cream sauces, bacon drippings
Don't buy deep fried foods
If two products have the same ingredients, both containing a "bad" fat, purchase the one listing the fat further down in the list of ingredients.
Get into the habit of reading labels. But don't just read them, compare the products. In a recent shopping trip we quickly compared two brands of pita bread, usually a low fat, low cholesterol item. One brand had 1 gram of fat and was marked "less than 5 mg" of cholesterol, while another brand had the same fat with no cholesterol. The second brand seemed the best until we noticed a third brand on another shelf. This pita had no fat as well as no cholesterol, and was actually cheaper than the other two.
You'll make some big mistakes by merely picking up the first item marked "low fat" or "no cholesterol" that catches your eye.
Consider two butter substitutes, Brand A and Brand B. Brand A is advertised as a vegetable oil margarine while Brand B promotes itself as a butter substitute that can be used like butter because of the flavor. You'd think that because both are in the margarine section of the store, both can be used in a low-fat, low- cholesterol diet, but that Brand B has a better, butter-like, flavor.
Now take a look at the nutrition information and a partial list of ingredients from the two bands:
Serving Size 14g (1 TBSP)
INGREDIENTS: WATER, LIQUID SUNFLOWER OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, GELATINE, SWEET DAIRY WHEY, SALT, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COTTONSEED OIL ...
Serving Size 14g (1 TBSP)
INGREDIENTS: BUTTER (GRADE AA SWEET CREAM), LIQUID CORN OIL, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED CORN OIL, SKIM MILK, WATER ...
Brand A is clearly a better choice. It has no cholesterol and only 6 milligrams of fat per serving, most of it unsaturated -- a 3 to 1 ratio of unsaturated to saturated. While the soybean oil has been partially hydrogenated (to give it a more solid form), it is the third ingredient in terms of percentage, following water and a "good" liquid vegetable oil. When selecting margarine, look for a unsaturated to saturated fat ratio greater than 2 to 1, as in Brand A, or 2 to 1 as a minimum, and with a liquid vegetable oil as one of the main ingredients. Soft margarine sold in tubs is usually better than stick margarine.
Brand B, on the other hand, contains 11 grams of fat per serving and 10 milligrams of cholesterol. Its first ingredient, the highest percentage in terms of content, is butter. While liquid corn oil is second, both partially hydrogenated corn oil and skim milk contain fat. Its ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat is 1:1, a poor choice if you're trying to reduce your cholesterol level.
The calories in both brands are mostly from fat. While neither passes the 20% test, you can't avoid it with margarine products. In this case, go by the amount and type of fat.
For cooking and baking, however, you'll have to decide between liquid vegetable oil and shortening, compared here in brands C and D.
Brand C -- Liquid vegetable oil.
Serving Size14g (1 TBSP)
INGREDIENTS: 100% ALL NATURAL SOY BEAN OIL
Brand D -- Solid Shortening
Serving Size 14g (1 TBSP)
INGREDIENTS: PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (SOY BEAN AND/OR PALM)
If you read these labels quickly, you'd think that Brand D is the better choice because it contains 2 less grams of fat per serving. But in this case, the trade off for less fat is more fat of the wrong kind.
Brand C does have 14 grams of fat but in a 4 to 1 ratio, and of all liquid soybean oil. Brand D, on the other hand, has equal amounts of unsaturated and saturated fats and may contain palm oil, a vegetable oil as high in saturated fat as some animal fats. The better choice? Brand C -- not because of the total fat content but because of the types of fat used.
Look at the labels of everything you purchase, selecting those items with less fat and the better types of fat.
Brand E -- Yolkless Egg Noodles
Serving Size 2oz
Brand F -- Egg Noodles
Serving Size 2oz
No comparison. Brand E contains one third less the fat as Brand F and no cholesterol. It is one of the new breed of specialty items aimed at persons who must watch their cholesterol levels.
Brand G -- Frozen Chicken Patties
Serving Size 3oz
Brand H -- Frozen Cheese Ravioli
Serving Size 6.5oz
To begin with, if cholesterol labels are not given on a label then assume the worst. Assume that the product is rich in cholesterol and be very cautious about purchasing it.
But without looking at the ingredients and not knowing the cholesterol levels, let's decide which frozen food would be the better selection. About two suggested servings of the chicken (at 3 ounces each) equals each 6.5 ounce serving of ravioli. But in 6 ounces of chicken you'll eat 34 grams of fat to only 12 grams in the pasta. If you eat a half a serving of Brand F -- 3 and 1/4 ounces -- you'll get just a third of the fat that's in 3 ounces of the chicken. Neither of these meals are low-fat, low-cholesterol selections but Brand H appears to be a better choice if you couldn't resist a littler splurge.
Unfortunately, you probably won't want to eat frozen ravioli without a little tomato sauce. You could make your own sauce using the recipes given later on, adding no cholesterol or fat. If not, most jarred sauces have about 5 to 6 grams of fat per 4 ounce serving. So adding a serving of prepared sauce to a serving of ravioli yields a total of about 18 grams of fat -- one gram more than you'll get in 3 ounces of chicken but still less than a comparable portion of each.
Now for a difficult choice, two breads from the same manufacturer.
Brand I -- Sliced White Sandwich Bread
Serving Size 1oz (1 slice)
Brand J -- Sliced White Bread
Serving Size 1oz (1 slice)
Brand I has no fat but a small amount of cholesterol per slice. Brand J has one gram of fat per slice but no cholesterol. Both are made with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, the difference being made up with some minor changes in other ingredients. The better selection? In this case, the choice depends on the other foods you eat during the day -- and what limits you've already reached in fat and cholesterol.
Monitoring Fat and Cholesterol
You can approach the job of measuring fat and cholesterol intake in several ways, depending on your goals and how you plan your food.
1. When you can plan your food, or make your own, then you have total control. In this case, you'll know exactly how much fat and cholesterol you'll be eating and can adjust as you go along.
2. If you're trying to reduce your weight at the same time, then you're probably working with a fixed number of calories. In this case, you can compute ahead of time the maximum amount of fat and cholesterol you should eat based on total planned caloric intake.
3. If you eat out and can't prepare your own food, then you'll have less control over fat and cholesterol. You'll have to estimate the total fat and cholesterol intake at the end of the meal, then compare it with recommended amounts, making adjustments the rest of the day or the next.
Let's first work through the procedure you should follow if you're lucky enough to plan and prepare your own food. We'll look at other techniques later on.
Planning Your Own Food
Assume you or someone in your household will be making dinner that evening. If you're using a meal plan from recipes suggested later on, the amount of fat and cholesterol has already been computed, both in the individual recipes and in the daily meal plan, so it won't be necessary to go through these computations. But as an example, we'll use one of these meal plans but go through the procedure from the start as you would with a recipe of your own.
With the recipe and menu handy, write down all of the meal's ingredients on a chart similar to CNTFAT.DOC.
The meal plan and entree recipe will look something like this:
mg/chol gm/fat calories
1 1/2 cup rice
2 whole chicken breasts (about 14 oz.) skinless, boneless
Now look up and record the amount of fat, cholesterol, and calories in each of the ingredients for the meal. You can find these in FATS.DOC or on the product's nutrition label.
Add the figures to the chart, making sure you adjust them for quantity. For example, say the entry looks like this:
mg/chol gm/fat calories
3 1/2 oz. chicken, light 75 5 170
The recipe calls for 2 whole chicken breasts that are to be cut in half to make four servings, about 14 ounces total or approximately 3 1/2 ounces each serving. In this case, multiply each of the amounts for chicken in the chart by 4 and record it on the chart. When all of the ingredients have been calculated it will look something like this:
Szechwan Chicken with Cashews
Add up the totals for the entire recipe:
Totals 301 42.1 1217
Do the same for the entire meal.
For each item on the meal plan, divide the totals by the number of servings and record the results on the chart:
mg/chol gm/fat calories
Totals 75 12.5 701
Compare your intake of fat and cholesterol with the ideal amounts. There are two ways to approach this, although both give the same results.
One method is to compute the number of grams of fat that are appropriate for the calories, then compare that with your actual amount for the meal or day.
Let's say that your meal plan totals 2040 calories and 41 grams of fat for the entire day. Use FATPRCNT.XLS to look up the grams of fat you should eat based on the number of calories consumed. Find the calories down the left side and the percentage of fat you'd like to intake on the top. The intersection is the number of grams of fat that you should eat.
For instance, here's a portion of the chart:
Total Calories 15% 17.5% 20% 22.5%
2025 33.75 39.38 45.00 50.63
2050 34.17 39.86 45.56 51.25
The closest row to your calories is the second, 2050, and the desired percentage of fat (20%) is the third column. Your fat for the day should be a little less than 45 grams. Since your meal plan totals 41 grams you can even spare a little treat.
The other method is to compute the percentage of calories your planned intake of fat will be. In FATGRAMS.XLS, find the closest total calories for the day down the left side and the grams of fat along the top. The percentage of calories is in the intersection of the two. For instance, look at this portion of the chart:
Calories 35 40 45 50
2000 15.75 18.00 20.25 22.50
2025 15.56 17.78 20.00 22.22
2050 15.37 17.56 19.76 21.95
2075 15.18 17.35 19.52 21.69
2100 15.00 17.14 19.29 21.43
The closest row to your calories is the third, 2050, and you're just a little above 40 grams of fat. The percentage of calories coming from fat is a little over 17.56 -- a pretty good amount.
You can compute the exact percentages yourself with a calculator and the formulas used to create the charts. To calculate the percentage of calories from fat, use this formula:
% Calories of Fat = total fat x 9 / total calories x 100
For example, you ate 40 grams of fat and 1800 calories. The percentage of the calories that was fat is
total fat x 9 = 40 x 9 = 360
divided by calories = 360 / 1800 = .20
multiplied by 100 = .20 x 100 = 20%
To calculate the number of grams based on percentage desired, use this formula:
Grams of fat = Calories x desired percent / 9
If you plan to eat 2000 calories and want 30% as fat:
Calories x desired percent = 2000 x .3 = 600 divided by 9 = 600 /9 = 55.55 grams
Adjust the day's food plan accordingly. If the amount of fat or cholesterol is too high, change the menu. Switch to a lower fat recipe or modify the ingredients.
If you have some room to spare, add a small treat or extra calories.
Until you get in a routine, this degree of planning may not be easy. But remember, your goal is important and well worth the effort. After a short while, you'll feel so much better, that the positive results will strengthen your commitment and resolve. Before you know it, you'll be able to plan your food and monitor intake of fat and cholesterol almost automatically in a less formal way.
Preparing and Modifying Your Own Recipes
While the recipes in this book are low-fat, low-cholesterol, and taste good, you can still make your own favorite recipes -- but in a new way. The trick is to modify your recipes and cooking techniques to become low-fat.
Use the recipes and meals plans presented in this book as a guide. Since the amounts of fat, cholesterol, and calories are presented for each recipe ingredient and meal item, you'll be able to see how adjustments in recipes effect the final totals.
Whenever possible, substitute a low-fat product for one you've used before.
For example, look at the two recipes below:
The original recipe on the left contains 504 mg of cholesterol, 61 grams of fat, and 537 calories -- or about 100% of the calories from fat.
The low-fat version on the right makes three substitutions:
This Was Substituted... For This...
non-fat yogurt whipping cream
egg white whole egg
The low-fat recipe contains just 11 mg of cholesterol, 7.5 grams of fat, and 277 calories -- about 27% calories from fat. The sauce still has a thick consistency and flavor of the original but in a much healthier form.
You can also try just leaving some ingredients out, as with our no-fat, no-cholesterol tomato sauce, at 62 calories per half- cup serving. With 7 ounces of meat and two tablespoons of butter (to brown the vegetables), as some people make it, the sauce has about 29 mg of cholesterol, 7 grams of fat, and 98 calories per serving.
Once the recipe is converted, put the same care into the actual preparation and serving.
Tip: If a recipe calls for browning the meat, broil it lightly instead of pan frying. Pan frying, even with a "good oil" adds fat that isn't necessary.
Tip: If you have to fry meat or vegetables, use as little oil as possible. Turn the item frequently to cover all sides instead of deep frying.
Tip: Remove all poultry skin. It may taste good when crisp and crunchy, or covered with sauce, but it contains a high level of fat.
Tip: Drain fat on a cooking rack or blot meat on a paper towel before serving. If you're broiling meat, use a tray with a perforated cooking rack. The extra fat will drip below the surface of the food rather than absorb into it. Before cutting the meat, blot the surface with a paper towel to absorb some additional fat. This is particularly important with high-fat foods.
Tip: Make soups, sauces, and gravies a day before. After a night in the refrigerator you'll see a layer of hardened fat. Skim off the fat before reheating and serving. In some sauces and gravies, the layer of fat may account for half of the bulk, so double the recipe to be sure.
Tip: Rotisserie, if you have one, rather than broil. On a spit, the fat drips down away from the meat.
Tip: Try cutting down the suggested amounts of margarine or oil. Even "good oils" contain fat. In place, add small amounts of cooked oat cereal to compensate for the lost calories and as an oat bran supplement.
Tip: Use egg whites instead of whole eggs, but add a drop of yellow food coloring to disguise the white omelette or french toast.
By following these steps, and carefully selecting and preparing your food, you can greatly reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet.
The Dieter's Approach
Most people trying to lose weight are primarily interested in total caloric intake. But if you're trying to reduce cholesterol at the same time, pay equal attention to the amount of fat. Don't select foods on calories alone, but consider the amounts and types of fat as well. You don't want to lose weight while "getting fat" from the inside out, and a low-calorie high-fat diet is just self- defeating.
Since you no doubt are carefully adding calories, use the charts to gauge desired levels of fat. For example, say you want to cut down your fat intake to just 15% of total calories, and you're on a 1600 calorie diet to maintain your weight.
Total Calories 15% 20% 25%
1500 25.00 33.33 41.67
1520 25.33 33.78 42.22
1540 25.67 34.22 42.78
1560 26.00 34.67 43.33
1580 26.33 35.11 43.89
1600 26.67 35.56 44.44
In this case, try to restrict your fat to just 26 to 27 grams. Knowing the desired level of fat is particularly important for dieters, who often make food decisions on an item by item basis. You might, for example, find a small snack item that's low in calories but has a relatively high percentage of fat. Compare the amounts with the calories and fat you've consumed so far, the make your decision based on which item has not yet been exceeded.