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Creating a fat gram budget

September 15, 1998

Health authorities recommend a diet low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol to help lower the risk of heart disease, obesity and some forms of cancer. We are encouraged to choose no more than 30 percent of our calories from fat.

How can this advice be translated into a fat gram budget? Divide your recommended healthy body weight in pounds by two. For example, if your recommended healthy weight is 140 pounds, your fat gram budget is 70 grams.

Read package labels or consult food nutrient tables for the fat content of foods you eat, keep track of the grams of fat in your diet and target areas that need work. These goals for fat intake apply to the diet over several days, not to a single meal or food. Balance is the overall key.

To reduce fat, target saturated fat first. Saturated fat is found in a variety of foods. Animal products such as meat, lard, butter, cheese, milk and eggs are important sources. Tropical oils (coconut, palm) and hydrogenated fats also provide saturated fats in the diet. Cholesterol is found only in animal products. Therefore, if you reduce your fat intake from animal sources, it will help reduce dietary cholesterol as well as total fat and saturated fat.

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One good way to lower the fat content of your diet is to modify the recipes you use regularly. Ask yourself these questions:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Can the fat be reduced?

In baked goods such as cookies, quick breads and some cakes, substitute three-fourths of the fat called for with an equal amount of low-fat yogurt, applesauce or prune puree. Make 1 cup of puree by blending 8 ounces of dried prunes and 6 tablespoons of water in a food processor or blender. Rather than adding additional oil to prepackaged cake and/or brownie mixes, substitute completely with applesauce or yogurt.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Can you steam, broil or saut with water or wine rather than fry the food?

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Will the recipe work with unsaturated oils instead of butter or shortening?

Canola and olive oil are good substitutes since they are high in monounsaturated fat. Soft tub margarines contain less hydrogenated fat than stick margarines.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Can you substitute with less fatty meats or reduce the total amount of meat used? In combination dishes such as enchiladas, stroganoff and lasagna, try using less meat and more vegetables. Choose leaner forms of meat - for example, flank steak instead of porterhouse. Replace ground beef or sausage with low-fat ground turkey. To make sure the ground turkey you buy is low in fat, ask the butcher to grind it from turkey loins. Skin chicken before or after cooking. Choose fish regularly.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Is cheese necessary? Can you reduce it or replace it with a lower fat form? One suggestion would be to top pizza with vegetables and just a sprinkling of cheese. Try cheeses naturally lower in fat, such as feta and part-skim mozzarella or the reduced fat cheeses now on the market.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Can you reduce or replace the creams used for thickening? Try low-fat or nonfat yogurt in recipes that call for sweet or sour cream. Use potatoes to thicken soups.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Will the recipe let you use two egg whites or four tablespoons of egg substitute rather than a whole egg? An egg white has one-fourth the calories contained in an egg yolk and none of the cholesterol.

Lots of cookbooks and recipes can help you lower the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol when you cook. But you don't have to throw out your favorite cookbook or recipes you have been using for years. Just cut down on the high-fat ingredients and substitute ingredients that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. Some recipes may change in texture and consistency when you use these substitutions.

If you would like to have some help in altering recipes, send a self-addressed, stamped (32-cent) envelope to Maryland Cooperation Extension, Washington County Office, 1260 Maryland Ave., Hagerstown, Md. 21740. Mark the envelope, "Alter."

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator, Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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