A recent Nutri-Data column focusing on the fight against fat and calories (Food Section, Sept. 4) generated some confusion among readers, who found recipes containing 14 to 23 grams of fat per serving to be excessive and not consistent with recommendations by heart and cancer groups advocating that we "cut back fat intake from the national average of approximately 40% of total calories to 30%."
The article discussed research data collected by the Food Marketing Institute that displayed consumer preferences in making food choices. The study indicated that although most people are concerned about the nutritive value of food, taste is still a great motivator in terms of selection. The article went on to suggest fish recipes that satisfy consumers' need for healthful foods without neglecting their taste buds.
Dropping Fat Intake The American Heart Assn. and other health and cancer groups have begun to support the notion that dietary fat should be restricted to a total of 30% of overall intake, down 10% from the previous caloric allotment, which allowed up to 40% of the day's total calories to be derived from fat.
Intake watchers assume that under this policy, one recipe with a high fat and calorie content adversely affects the total fat consumption for the day. It is perceived, in effect, that if a recipe already contains as much as 50% fat, one would have to live on orange segments and plain produce to stay within the safe range for the day. This is not the case.
It must be made clear that we are talking about total daily caloric intake. Percentage of fat and calories for a day must be based upon everything we eat in that given day--not just by comparing the fat and calorie content for one recipe or meal.
For example, Salmon Tacos, one of the featured recipes, offers 14 grams of fat per taco serving. One gram of fat equals nine calories, so to get the number of calories per serving that are attributable to just fat, multiply 14 grams by nine--126 calories. Divide 126 by 233, the total number of calories per serving, and the 126 fat calories would represent 54% of the total calories for that dish.
This percentage seems extremely high, and it would be if this was the only meal eaten for a day. But when this 126 fat calories is compared to the typical safe dieting range of 1,000 to 1,200 total calories per day, the figure is considerably less--12% and 10% respectively. This falls well below the 30% recommended by the American Heart Assn.
Number of Calories a Day "It's an overall intake of fat," said Rita Storey, media spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Assn. "That means that in order to figure out what percentage of our daily intake the fat represents, we would have to have the nutrient data for everything eaten within a day. The key is how many calories you're talking about for the day."
The recipes provided in the September column emphasized good taste without compromising health concerns for fat and cholesterol. Recipes like Salmon Burgers and Salmon Tacos were considerably lower than their traditional counterparts--a typical 3 1/2-ounce serving of lean ground beef (10% fat) has 186 calories, compared to the same amount of salmon, which totals about 155. Included as part of a sensible daily eating plan, these recipes provide the dieter with needed variety and flexibility, yet fare quite well health-wise.
The question is: What is considered sensible?
A sample daily menu for persons on 1,800-calorie, fat-restricted diets might begin with breakfast foods selected from the following: a half grapefruit or a half cup orange slices; a half cup whole-wheat cooked cereal or one cup bran flakes; one cup skim milk; one homemade muffin or one slice whole-wheat toast and one ounce mozzarella cheese; and black coffee. Followed by a moderate lunch--tuna salad sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and tomato, one medium-size apple and one cup skim milk--you could easily afford to choose a more liberal dinner menu.
When included with the following breakfast and lunch menus, a person will spend 29% of the total day's calories on fat when the dinner meal is Salmon Tacos. If Salmon Burgers are selected, the figure is 31%. It's easy to manipulate these figures a bit; simply exclude more fatty parts of the meals to reach the desired goal.
Some other heart association suggestions:
Consume several servings of fruits and vegetables per day in organic form with edible peels for fiber rather than as juice. You should have three servings of fruit per day, of which at least one is high in Vitamin C and one rich in Vitamin A per week. Include three servings of vegetables per day--at least half to one cup cooked or raw--one high in Vitamin C every day and at least one serving from the high Vitamin A list several times a week.