Cutting down on fat is a wise move if you're prone to the risk of heart disease, but doing it before you know the facts can leave your diet nutritionally lopsided, according to the California Dietetic Assn.
"Many people get carried away and want to banish all foods containing fat from their diets," says Rita Storey, CDA president. "People misinterpret recommendations to cut back on fat by labeling foods such as beef and dairy products as taboo, regardless of their nutrition benefits."
Storey says the elimination of too many foods can sabotage a balanced diet composed of the food groups we count on for essential nutrients--milk, meat, vegetables and fruits, breads and cereals.
Limit High-Fat Foods
"Rather than completely avoiding certain food groups, you can simply limit the number of high-fat foods you eat, looking first at extra foods which are high in fat such as cooking oils, mayonnaise, butter, margarine, cream cheese, sauces and gravies, French fries or potato chips," Storey suggests.
Instead of ridding your diet completely of beef--an excellent source of protein and iron but generally higher in fat than other meats--you might think about choosing leaner cuts of beef such as eye of round, shoulder, rump or sirloin tip roasts as well as flank, round, tenderloin and sirloin steaks.
"Eliminating milk group foods leaves your diet without significant sources of calcium, necessary for the prevention of the bone-crippling disease, osteoporosis," Storey says. "Try drinking low-fat or nonfat milk instead of whole milk and eating mozzarella or skim milk cheeses instead of higher-fat Cheddar. Yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium while being low in fat."
Foods in the extra foods category offer us little more than calories, she says. Snacks that may satisfy an extra food craving but which are low in fat include fresh fruit, raw vegetables or air-popped popcorn. Angel-food cake is also a low-fat treat but may be too high in sugar for people watching their weight.
"The best way to cut down on fat and at the same time maintain good nutrition is to continue to eat from the four food groups, but stay open to substituting lower-fat foods for higher-fat ones within each group," Storey says.
Eating from the four food groups, she says, will provide a diet rich in all nutrients necessary for the healthy, active life style.