The public is doing a good job of shifting consumption of meat and milk to low-fat products, and now should turn to hidden fats, salad and cooking oils to limit fat in the diet, according to a representative of the American Dietetic Assn.
Rita Storey, a registered dietitian, said that choosing leaner meats and low-fat dairy foods has helped reduce fat in the American diet from 42% to 37% of total calories while preserving valuable sources of calcium and iron.
Fats from meats have been reduced 26% in recent years, according to research sponsored by the American Meat Institute. Similarly, whole-milk consumption has declined 50% while low-fat and skim-milk use has increased more than 300% from 1955 to 1983, U.S. Food and Drug Administration figures show.
"Salad and cooking oils, shortenings and hidden fats found in processed, packaged bread; cake and muffin mixes, crackers and cookies should be primary targets when consumers reduce fat in their diets because they don't contribute a significant amount of any nutrient," she said.
Salad and cooking oils make up nearly 75% of the fats and oils group of the American diet.
Storey recommends using cooking sprays, switching to broiling, using a microwave or baking instead of frying and making lower fat substitutions for salad dressings, such as using a low-fat yogurt-based dressing.
"Once fats from extra foods have been reduced, a few lower-fat choices from meats and dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese can easily bring you within recommended levels without sacrificing nutrients," Storey said.
The American Heart Assn., the American Cancer Society, the Dairy Council of California and other health groups recommend trimming the total level of fat in the diet to 30% of total calories.