Diet Tip - Read the Label
By Marley Sugar, RD
Fat in foods has generally been considered to be the most satisfying of all nutrients. Fat provides particular textures that are pleasurable to the mouth and add much flavor to food. If you've eaten cheese or cream cheese, you probably agree that fat melting on the tongue feels good. Lower-fat foods can lack these qualities, so it might take time to adjust to a lower-fat diet.
Fat is a nutrient that helps the body function in multiple ways. Fat supplies the body with energy, helps other nutrients work, protects organs and provides insulation. What might be surprising is that the body only needs a small amount of fat. Too much fat can have bad effects, including turning into unwanted, excess pounds and increasing cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Here is an example of how a person can adjust to changes in the diet. If a person stops drinking whole milk regularly and switches to 1% low-fat milk, and then switches back to whole milk after a few weeks, the whole milk will taste more like cream than milk. This demonstrates how someone can adjust to the flavor of low-fat milk and will come to find whole milk to not be as pleasant.
I challenge you to read food labels to eat a lower-fat diet.
Tips for Reading Labels
- Choose foods with fewer than 5 grams (g) of total fat per serving
- Choose foods with fewer than 3 grams (g) per serving of saturated and trans fat combined (these fats are not heart-healthy)
- Read ingredients -- if a food contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, then it has trans fat (If it has fewer than 0.5 grams per serving, the label may still say "trans fat-free")
- Pick foods with heart-healthy, unsaturated fats (These might not be listed on food labels, so check this list)
- Read labels on egg cartons, and choose eggs that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have more omega-3 fats than regular eggs because of the type of feed given to the chickens
- Limit egg yolks to 3 per week
- When you buy frozen or canned produce, check the labels for those that have nothing added to the fruit or vegetables, such as sauces, gravies, and seasonings
- "Fat-free" does not mean calorie-free; "fat-free" means fewer than 0.5 grams of fat per serving
- "Trans fat-free" means fewer than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving
- "Low-fat" means 3 grams or fewer of fat per serving
- "Reduced-fat" means 25 percent less fat than the regular product (with 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving)
- "Percent fat-free" is based on product weight, not on the percent of calories, which can be misleading; instead, look for "low-fat" or "fat-free"
Choose Unsaturated Fats
Unsaturated fat is your best choice. Monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fats are the specific names of unsaturated fats.
- Unsaturated oils include:
- Omega-3 is a type of unsaturated fat found in:
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Albacore tuna
- Flaxseed oil (If you use flaxseed be sure it is ground up -- your body cannot digest the beneficial fat if the seeds are left whole)
- Limit your intake of foods with palm, palm kernel or coconut oil, because these are saturated fats