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CALCULATED RISKS : Since many Americans’ favorite foods provide half the day’s allowance of 30% calories from fat, health experts say consumers need more nutrition education.

“If you are one of the 2 out of 3 Americans who do not smoke or drink excessively, your choice of diet can influence your long-term health more than any other action you might take.” --U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop

Since the Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health was published last year, news about diet and health has been prolific. Consequently, terms like “30%-fat-calories” and “good health” have become synonymous as this country’s battle of the bulge rages forward.

But the plethora of information, available through such sources as the media, bookstores and supermarket check-out counters, has had a chilling effect on consumers trying to figure out how to adhere to the recommendations in the report.

Many people, in fact, are having considerable trouble with the edict that fat in the diet must be reduced to 30% of the day’s total calories. Health experts say that understanding scientific data and identifying foods that are rich sources of fat are seen as two major obstacles.

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In his report, Koop pointed out that many of the diseases plaguing this country have beginnings in dietary excess and imbalance. The typical American diet, it was reported, is too high in calories, fat, salt, sugar and alcohol and too low in fiber and other protective factors. He explained that since there are so many risk factors for disease that are uncontrollable--heredity, age and sex--Americans should make the effort to take action in the one area over which they have control: Diet. Still, government surveys demonstrate that consumers have been frustrated in their attempts to do so.

The American Dietetic Assn., a national organization of nutrition professionals, hopes to change that through its National Nutrition Month program, slated this month.

“There are so many guidelines,” said Betty Nowlin, a registered dietitian and media spokeswoman for ADA, “that consumers are confused about what is accurate information to believe. It is the role of ADA, being experts in nutrition, to be the leaders in providing accurate information to the public.

“People in today’s fast-paced society want quick, easy, assessable information that they can transfer into their regular life styles,” said Nowlin. “They need to have choices available.”

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She explained that many people today still don’t realize that “simple, gradual changes” in eating habits can produce the recommended decline in fat level, without neglecting good taste. Data such as the following, accumulated by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration supports that notion:

--Public awareness of the link between dietary fat and heart disease rose from 45% in 1982 to 80% in the mid-1980s.

--Only 29% of the people surveyed knew that a product described as cholesterol-free could still be high in saturated fat.

--As few as 11% of those queried in 1984 and 1986 correctly indicated that hydrogenation made a fat more saturated: 27% thought it meant a fat was less saturated.

--Women’s diets changed considerably between 1977 and 1985. They shifted to non-fat and low-fat milk and diet carbonated drinks, less meat and fewer eggs. Still, they consume too much fat--typically from cheese and cream desserts, salad dressings and table fats.

To dispel some of the myths responsible for these figures, ADA has compiled a variety of facts about fat--its primary sources (especially those hidden in the diet)--and offers tips on assessing fat in the diet. It is hoped that the information will make the 30% fat goal attainable, by encouraging people to consume diets that are lower in fat overall, and discourage the “good food/bad food” syndrome of eliminating entire food groups that are perceived as high in fat.

For some people, for instance, the way to reduce fat in the diet has been to delete certain foods from the diet. Items that supply essential nutrients for proper functioning of the body are often replaced by stand-ins with the perceived health benefit. It is viewed as a quick and painless solution to the problem of nutrition in the fast-paced society of today.

One ADA member described a client that resorted to taking fiber pills before meals to prevent overeating and increase her fiber intake. She recommended that the client eat a piece of fruit before meals instead.

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Another member recalls the client who said, “Tums give me all the calcium I need,” failing to comprehend that low-fat dairy products are a more easily absorbed source of the mineral and offer other vital nutrients for little fat.

Others still observe dieters who boast of having “only a salad” for lunch, without understanding that the amount of fat they consumed was just slightly less than if they’d eaten a hamburger with all the trimmings. One standard restaurant ladle of dressing can have as much as 300 calories, according to ADA.

A way to avoid scenarios such as these, is to become better prepared in the supermarket and learn to fit favored foods into a reasonably balanced 30% diet plan. Reading food labels is a good place to start. Since most products list the amount of fat in grams on the side of the package, this is the best way to become familiar with the actual amount of fat in foods typically consumed. Then, serving sizes of these items can be adjusted to fit in a 30% diet plan, based on the method described below.

The process of estimating fat in the diet is similar to the method of counting calories, once popular with dieters. And the procedure is simple.

First, determine how many calories you usually eat during the course of the day, eliminating snacks, Nowlin said, because items such as crackers and desserts offer little nutrition for a high calorie price.

Then, see how many grams of fat you are allowed for your caloric intake (below), based on the 30% fat level. Since most food labels tell the number of grams a food contains per serving, this is the most efficient way to meet the goal. (Translation of grams of fat to percent of fat calories is more tricky and won’t be explained here).

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for energy intake (calories) is based upon the energy needs of people doing light work throughout the day. This figure may be adjusted more or less depending upon energy expenditure. In other words, the more you move around during the day--whether at work or during an exercise program--the more calories, and therefore fat, you are entitled to.

For example: the RDA for calories for young to middle-aged males ranges from 2,300 for sedentary to 3,100 or more if active. The RDA is 1,800 to 2,100 calories for females. While there is no RDA for dieting women, it is recommended that they stay within the 1,200 to 1,500 calories-per-day range unless the diet is supervised by a physician.

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To achieve the 30% goal, a person consuming 1,200 calories per day is entitled to no more than 40 grams of fat. For every 300-calorie increment, add 10 grams of fat per day: 1,500 calories, 50 grams of fat; 1,800, 60 grams of fat; 2,100, 70 grams of fat, etc.

In the beginning, this process may seem troublesome, but keeping a mental or written note of the grams of fat as they accumulate is a good way to keep track of fat in the diet. Eventually, when you’ve memorized the amount of grams in regularly eaten foods, you can easily budget favorite foods back into the diet.

In the meantime, see the accompanying list of food substitutions that may be helpful in assessing foods to include or exclude from a 30%-fat diet and exchange the following low-fat recipes for the high-fat foods pictured on Page 1.

BRANIFUL MUFFINS

1/2 cup warm water

1 cup raisins

1 tablespoon honey

4 cups wheat or oat bran flakes cereal

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons oats

1/2 cup oat bran

4 egg whites

1/3 cup canola oil

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups buttermilk

Juice and grated zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons margarine, chilled

Combine water, raisins and honey in small custard cup and let soak until plump.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine cereal, granulated sugar, baking soda, salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon, 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup oats and oat bran. Stir to mix well.

In separate bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Beat in oil and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Add vanilla, buttermilk, orange juice and zest and raisins along with their soaking liquid. Blend well. Fold liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix well, then let stand, covered, 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 3 tablespoons oats, 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon and margarine in food processor or with fingers mix only until crumbly.

Stir batter, then spoon into paper-lined muffin cups, filling almost to top of muffin cup. Sprinkle each muffin with 1 teaspoon crumb topping. Bake at 350 degrees 25 to 30 minutes until done. Makes 18 large muffins.

REDUCED-CALORIE QUICHE

LORRAINE

1 cup egg substitute, thawed

1 1/2 cups low-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash white pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup shredded low-fat Swiss cheese

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 cup diced Canadian bacon

Perfect Pie Crust

1 egg white, beaten

Combine egg substitute, milk, salt and pepper. Beat with wire whisk until mixed. Add onion, cheeses and bacon and mix well.

Pour mixture into Perfect Pie Crust, then brush edges of crust with beaten egg white. Bake at 425 degrees 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue cooking 30 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Original quiche Lorraine recipe has more than 600 calories and 48 grams fat per serving. Revised version has about 1/3 calories and fat.

Perfect Pie Crust

1 cup sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons water

Combine flour and salt in bowl. Add oil and water and stir with fork until blended and dough holds together. Form dough into flat circle. Roll out between two squares wax paper until circle touches edges of paper. (Dampen work surface to prevent wax paper from slipping as dough is rolled.)

Peel off top paper. Pick up rolled dough with bottom paper and turn into 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough 1/2-inch beyond edge of plate. Fold edge under rim and flute with fingers or fork.

Line pie crust with foil and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake at 425 degrees 5 to 10 minutes to set. Fill as directed. Makes 1 (9-inch) pie crust.

MICROWAVE PEACH PIE

1 quart sliced fresh or frozen peaches

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 baked 9-inch Never Fail Pie Crust

Mix half of peaches with cornstarch and water. Puree. Add lemon juice, salt and sugar. Microwave on HIGH, stirring every minute or until mixture thickens, about 6 minutes. Cool. Arrange remaining peaches in baked Never-Fail Pie Crust. Cover with cooked mixture. Chill until set. Makes 8 servings.

Note: For taller pie, increase amount of fruit on pie crust.

Never-Fail Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons low-fat milk

Mix together flour, sugar and salt. Combine oil and milk and stir together. Mix dry ingredients with oil mixture until well blended. Pat into 9-inch pie plate. Pierce with fork in bend of plate, piercing at least 6 times on bottom and around sides. Microwave on HIGH 6 to 7 minutes. Give dish quarter turn after 3 minutes.

Note: Crust is especially good for fresh fruit pies.

STEAM-"FRIED” VEGETABLES AND BEEF

3/4 pound well-trimmed round steak, partially frozen

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger root

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup defatted beef broth

2 cups thinly sliced cabbage

1 3/4 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup Chinese peas, trimmed

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1/2 cup sweet red pepper, cut into thin strips

1/4 cup natural wheat and barley cereal nuggets

Hot cooked rice or shredded lettuce

Cut steak across grain into thin slices. Combine soy sauce, ginger and garlic in small bowl. Add meat and let marinate 15 minutes.

Heat broth in large skillet over high heat. Add meat and marinade and cook and stir until meat loses its red color, about 2 minutes. Add cabbage, mushrooms, peas, carrots, green onions and red pepper. Continue cooking and stirring until vegetables are tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes.

Transfer to warm platter and sprinkle with cereal. Serve with rice or over shredded lettuce. Makes 4 servings.

“CRISPY OVEN FRIED” CHICKEN

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon thyme leaves, crushed

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 cups whole wheat flakes, slightly crushed

1 pound boned and skinned chicken breasts, halved

Combine yogurt, thyme, onion powder, salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Place cereal in another bowl. Dip chicken in yogurt mixture to coat completely, then dip in cereal, covering both sides.

Place on baking sheet sprayed with non-stick vegetable coating spray. Bake at 400 degrees 25 minutes or until cooked through. Makes 4 servings.

STRAWBERRY YOGURT PIE

2 1/4 cups wheat bran flakes cereal, slightly crushed

3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons margarine, melted

2 packages unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup cold water

2 cups strawberries, hulled

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 (8-ounce) containers strawberry low-fat yogurt

Combine cereal and brown sugar and mix well. Add margarine and toss to moisten thoroughly. Reserve 2 tablespoons mixture. Press remaining crumbs against sides and bottom of 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees until edge just starts to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in small bowl. Set aside to soften, about 5 minutes. Place all but 3 strawberries in blender or food processor container fitted with steel blade and puree. Transfer puree to 2-quart saucepan. Add granulated sugar and softened gelatin. Heat and stir just until gelatin is dissolved. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Set saucepan in large bowl of ice water and chill until slightly thickened, stirring frequently.

Using hand-held electric mixer, whip gelatin mixture until light and almost doubled. Stir yogurt to soften, then fold into gelatin mixture. Chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture holds shape when dropped from spoon. Pour into prepared crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs. Chill until set, about 4 hours. Garnish with reserved strawberries. Makes 8 servings.

BETTER BREAD PUDDING

2 cups cubed, firm textured whole wheat bread

2 cups nonfat milk

2 1/2 cups whole wheat or bran flakes cereal with fruit

1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped apples

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 egg whites

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Powdered sugar

Plain low-fat yogurt

Spread bread cubes on baking sheet and toast in oven at 375 degrees 5 minutes. Cool.

Scald milk in medium saucepan. Stir in cereal, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and bread cubes. Cool.

Beat egg whites until frothy in 1 1/2-quart casserole. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in cereal mixture, then place casserole in pan of warm water. Bake at 375 degrees until puffed and knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar. Garnish with dollop yogurt. Makes 6 servings.


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