Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer
Based on what we know, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute have joined together to suggest some ways you may reduce your risks of heart disease and cancer. These suggestions emphasize the need to eat a variety of foods each day. They also include some "mealtime strategies" that you can use to plan meals that avoid too much fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and that help you to get adequate starch and fiber. These strategies are consistent with the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These strategies should encourage you to think about the foods you eat, how to prepare them, and what food choices you can make when you go grocery shopping or eat away from home.
The key is following a Choose More Often approach. It doesn't mean giving up your favorite foods. It means taking steps to choose more often foods that are low in fat and high in fiber. For example, if you enjoy eating steak, choose a low-fat cut such as round steak, trim off the excess fat, broil it, and drain off the drippings. Pizza? To try a low-fat version that is rich in fiber, use a whole-grain English muffin or pita bread topped with part-skim mozzarella, fresh vegetables, and tomato sauce. And cookies or other desserts? In many recipes you can reduce the fat, and substitute vegetable oils or margarine for butter. To increase fiber, use whole wheat flour in place of white flour.
Here's how the "Choose More Often" Approach Works
Foods to Choose More Often:
Low-fat meat, poultry, fish - Lean cuts of meat trimmed of fat (round tip roast, pork tenderloin, loin lamb chop), poultry without skin, and fish, cooked without breading or fat added.
Low-fat dairy products - 1 percent or skim milk, buttermilk; low-fat or nonfat yogurt; lower fat cheeses (part-skim ricotta, pot, and farmer); ice milk, sherbet.
Dry beans and peas - All beans, peas and lentils -- the dry forms are higher in protein.
Whole grain products - Breads, bagels, and English muffins made from whole wheat, rye, bran, and corn flour or meal; whole grain or bran cereals; whole wheat pasta; brown rice; bulgur.
Fruits and vegetables - All fruits and vegetables (except avocados, which are high in fat, but that fat is primarily unsaturated). For example, apples, pears, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, peaches, bananas, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, and turnips, and others.
Fats and oils high in unsaturates - Unsaturated vegetable oils, such as canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, olive oil, and soybean oil, and margarine; reduced-calorie mayonnaise and salad dressings.
To assure an adequate diet, choose a variety of foods daily including selections of vegetables; fruits; whole-grain breads and cereals; low-fat dairy products; poultry, fish, and lean meat, dry beans and peas. Here are some tips for following the Choose More Often approach in three important areas: grocery shopping, food preparation, and eating out.
Tips for Grocery Shopping
Focus on variety. Choose a wide selection of low-fat foods rich in fiber. Include whole grain breads and cereals, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and poultry, fish, and lean meat. Although the goal is to reduce fat to 30 percent or less of calories, when choosing foods that do contain fat, try to choose ones that contain primarily unsaturated fats. For example, choose an unsaturated-rich margarine instead of butter; choose vegetable oils.
Read food labels. To help you find foods that are low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber, get into the label-reading habit. Many nutritional labels on packaged foods show the amount of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids and the amount of cholesterol and fiber they contain. Check the type of fat on the ingredients list. Is it an animal fat, coconut or palm kernel oil high in saturated fat? Or, is it corn or soybean oil high in polyunsaturated fat? Choose a product with the lowest proportion of saturated fat. The label also tells you something else about a product. Ingredients are listed in order of amount from most to least by weight. So, when you buy a breakfast cereal, for example, choose one that has a whole grain listed first (such as whole wheat or oatmeal).
Pay attention to sodium. Many processed, canned, and frozen foods are high in sodium. Cured or processed meats, cheeses, and condiments (soy sauce, mustard, tartar sauce) are also high in sodium. Check for salt, onion or garlic salt, and any ingredient with "sodium" on the label. If the sodium content is given on the nutritional label, compare products and choose the ones with lower levels.
Food Preparation for Healthy Eating
Use small amounts of fat and fatty foods. There are lots of ways to use less fat. For example, when you saute or stir-fry, use only 1/2 teaspoon of fat per serving. When you use margarine, mayonnaise, or salad dressing, use half as much as usual. And, decrease portion sizes of other high fat foods -- such as: rich desserts, untrimmed and fatty types of meat, poultry with skin, and fried foods, especially breaded foods.
Use less saturated fat. While reducing your total fat intake, substitute unsaturated fat and oils for saturated fat in food preparation. For example, instead of butter, use margarine or vegetable oil. One teaspoon of butter can be replaced with equal portions (or less) of margarine or 3/4 teaspoon of vegetable oil in many recipes without affecting the quality. Saturated fat may be reduced even more if you want to experiment with recipes. Poultry without skin and fish are good choices because they are often lower in fat and saturated fat than many meats.
Use low-fat alternatives. Substitute 1 percent, skim, or reconstituted nonfat dry milk for whole milk. Use low-fat yogurt, buttermilk, or evaporated skim milk in place of cream or sour cream. Try reduced-calorie mayonnaise and salad dressing in place of regular.
Choose lean meat. When you buy meat, choose lean cuts such as beef round, pork tenderloin, and loin lamb chops. Be sure to trim all visible fat from meat and poultry and remove poultry skin.
Use low-fat cooking methods. Bake, steam, broil, microwave, or boil foods rafter than frying. Skim fat from soups and gravies.
Increase fiber. Choose whole grain breads and cereals. Substitute whole grain flour for white flour. Eat vegetables and fruits more often and have generous servings. Whenever possible, eat the edible fiber-rich skin as well as the rest of the vegetable or fruit.
Use herbs, spices, and other flavorings. For a different way to add flavor to meals, try lemon juice, basil, chives, allspice, onion, and garlic in place of fats and sodium. Try new recipes that use less fat or sodium-containing ingredients, and adjust favorite recipes to reduce fat and sodium.
Choose the restaurant carefully. Are there low-fat as well as high-fiber selections on the menu? Is there a salad bar? How are the meat, chicken, and fish dishes cooked? Can you have menu items broiled or baked without added fat instead of fried? These are important things to know before you enter a restaurant, fast food or otherwise. Seafood restaurants usually offer broiled, baked, or poached fish, and you can often request butter and sauces on the side. Many steak houses offer small steaks and have salad bars.
Try ethnic cuisines. Italian and Asian restaurants often feature low-fat dishes. though you must be selective and alert to portion size. Try a small serving of pasta or fish in a tomato sauce at an Italian restaurant. Many Chinese, Japanese, and Thai dishes include plenty of steamed vegetables and a high proportion of vegetables to meat. Steamed rice, steamed noodle dishes, and vegetarian dishes are good choices too. Ask that the chef cook your food without soy sauce or salt to decrease sodium. Some Latin American restaurants feature a variety of fish and chicken dishes that are low in fat.
Make sure you get what you want Here are just a few things you can do to make sure you're in control when you eat out. Ask how dishes are cooked. Don't hesitate to request that one food be substituted for another. Order a green salad or baked potato in place of french fries or order fruit, fruit ice, or sherbet instead of ice cream. Request sauces and salad dressings on the side and use only a small amount. Ask that butter not be sent to the table with your rolls. If you're not very hungry, order two low-fat appetizers rather than an entire meal, split a menu item with a friend, get a doggie-bag to take half of your meal home, or order a half-size portion. When you have finished eating, have the waiter clear the dishes away so that you can avoid post meal nibbling.