Welsh pointed out that consumers are still confused over the fat issue. "They don't know how to decrease fat in the diet, so they single out milk, meat and eggs as culprits, and switch to other high sources of fat, such as cheese and creamy desserts."
Welsh pointed out that instead of reducing intake of meat, eggs and milk to dangerous levels, it is wise to substitute lower-fat milk, cheese and yogurt and leaner meats for those higher in fat. "We can lower fat levels without jeopardizing nutrients by making lower fat selections within food groups," Welsh said.
What did the study say about carbohydrate intake? Carbohydrate, from both starch and sugars, provided 46% of total calories--up from 1977. Dietary fiber is estimated at about 12 grams a day for women, below the 20 grams or more a day that the National Cancer Institute recommends. Fiber intakes by men were closer to the NCI recommendation, averaging 18 grams per day. Increase intake of sugar-containing foods, especially soft drinks, probably accounted for some of the increased carbohydrate intake. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest eating foods with adequate starch and fiber, but avoiding too much sugar.
Sodium intake was at safe intake levels (according to recommendations by the Food and Nutrition Board), for women in all regions. However the FNB estimates are considered low because they do not include sodium in salt added at the table.
Welsh advised a food plan outlined by the USDA, which, depending on energy expenditure levels, should include at least two servings daily from the milk and milk products group, as good sources of calcium, riboflavin, protein, B-12 and magnesium; two servings from the meat and meat alternates group which provide excellent sources of protein, iron, niacin, vitamins B-6, B-12, magnesium and zinc; four to six servings daily from the vegetable-fruit group for vitamins A and C, folic acid and fiber; and four to six servings daily from the bread-cereal group for thiamine, niacin, iron, zinc and fiber.
Extra foods, in which hidden fats lurk (cake, pie, cookies, doughnuts, candy, sweet rolls, chips and granola), should be limited in the diet. Added fats, such as salad dressing, margarine, butter, oils, gravy, sauces, and added sweets, such as sugar, jam, syrup, honey and candy should not be relied upon for nutrients, as most are high in fat and calories.
Welsh reported that sodium intake levels reported in the study for 86% of the women were within the 3.3 grams daily intake range suggested by the Food and Nutrition Board as safe and adequate for women, but above it for men.
Both women and children in the study ate more often in 1985 than in 1977. The frequency of eating in 1985 was four times a day, while in 1977, three times a day was reported most often.
Snacking, too, increased between 1977 and 1985. In 1977 about 60% of the women and children reported snacking on the survey day. In 1985, about 80% did so on one day.
Eating away from home, also increased between 1977 and 1985, according to Welsh' report. The proportion of women eating out increased from 45% in spring of 1977, to 57% in the spring of 1985. Over the days studied in 1985, 88% of the women and 79% of the children ate out at least once.
The proportion of total intake that women ate away from home differed among food groups, reported Welsh. "Women consumed over 40% of their alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, and 30% of the meat, poultry, and fish away from home. They had the smallest proportion of their milk and milk products away from home."
Breakfast provided another interesting result, according to Welsh. "Although most all women and children reported eating breakfast at least once during the four days in 1985, only 53% of the women and 85% of the children had breakfast on each of the four days.
Unhealthy Cholesterol Levels
On the same program, Jacqueline Sooter-Bochenek, MS, RD, clinical nutrition director at the UC San Diego Medical Center, pointed out that half the people older than 40 have unhealthy blood cholesterol levels that can be lowered to optimum ranges with minor dietary adjustments.
"Simple modifications should do the trick of reducing serum cholesterol to healthy levels," she said. "For every 1% reduction in serum cholesterol levels, a patient with high-risk cholesterol levels can expect a 2% reduction in risk for coronary heart disease.
--Limit fat intake to 30% of the total calories.
--Total fat intake should aim for one-third saturated fats, one-third polyunsaturated fats and one-third mono-unsaturated fats.
--Consume no more than 300 milligrams cholesterol per day.
Sooter-Bochenek said that limiting added fats, such as cooking oil, margarine, butter, salad dressings, commercially prepared pies, cakes, cookies and sweet rolls can reduce total fat.
She advised that because high intake of saturated fat can elevate serum cholesterol levels, one should look to lowering total fat with emphasis on saturated fat. "Saturated fat can be decreased by switching to--not eliminating--lower fat dairy foods; lean, fat-trimmed beef; skinless poultry and fish, Sooter-Bochenek said.
Luncheon meats, bacon, sausage, pepperoni and salami are high in saturated fat and should be used sparingly. "Also keep an eye out for hidden saturated fats, including hydrogenated vegetable oils, used in making crackers, cakes, cookies and other processed foods," she said.
Decreasing intake of processed snack foods, such as chips and snack cakes, which are, for the most part, made with coconut oil, a highly saturated fat, can also help reduce total fat and saturated fat intake.