Today, about half of all American adults have one or more chronic diseases that are often related to poor diet. It’s important to create a healthy eating pattern to maintain health and reduce the risk of disease. The food and beverage choices we make every day and through our lifetime matters.
One of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that we should “limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake.” Many of the foods and beverages we eat contain sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars. Small changes will help you stay within limits and make healthier choices you can enjoy.
Many beverages and foods contain calories from added sugars. Added sugars might make a food or beverage tastier, but they can also add a lot of calories and few or no nutrients. Most adults eat or drink about 18 teaspoons of added sugar each day. This is equal to 288 calories with zero nutritional value. Eating foods with less added sugars and more nutrient-dense foods can help you manage your calories. The Dietary Guidelines recommends that we eat less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars.
Tips for eating less sugar:
- Select sugar-free or low-calorie beverages in place of pop.
- Choose canned fruit packed in 100% fruit juice.
- Eat whole grain cereal instead of sugar sweetened cereal.
- Enjoy fresh fruit or dried fruit instead of a sweet dessert.
- Scale back on the amount of sugar added to your morning coffee.
- In baked goods such as brownies, cookies, and pie fillings, reduce the sugar by one-third to one-half. Add vanilla for added sweetness.
- Read food labels. Check the ingredients list, making sure that added sugars are not listed as one of the first three ingredients.
Limit Saturated Fats
Fats and oils help you feel full, add flavor to food, and provide your body with energy. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and can be found in fatty meats, the skin and fat on poultry, high fat dairy products (cream, butter, stick margarine and ice cream), and lard. Unsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature. They include polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils, nuts, and some margarines. Unsaturated fats also include monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, and avocado. To help reduce the risk of heart disease, eat more unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat.
Tips for eating foods low in fats:
- Remove any visible fat from meats and the skin of poultry.
- Buy tuna packed in water, not oil.
- Bake, roast or broil foods instead of frying.
- Add spices and herbs to vegetables instead of butter, sauces or gravies.
- Use non-stick cooking spray.
- Replace mayonnaise with plain, low-fat yogurt in dips and salads.
- Select low-fat, lean cuts of meat.
- Try low-fat cheeses.
- Drain the fat off of cooked ground meats.
Sodium is found in many foods in varying amounts. Packaged, canned, and processed foods available in grocery stores, restaurants, and fast foods tend to have larger amounts of sodium. Too much sodium can increase your risk for high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of sodium you eat to less than 1,500 mg per day for heart health. That’s about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt.
Tips to help control sodium:
- Taste food before it is salted.
- Remove the saltshaker from the table and season foods with herbs and spices, rather than salt.
- Go easy on condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and olives.
- Read the Nutrition Facts label to compare the amount of sodium in processed foods such as cereals, packaged mixes, soups, salad dressings, and sauces.
- Choose fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables without added salt most of the time.
- Look for labels that say “low sodium.”
- American Heart Association. Added Sugars.
- Choose MyPlate. Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate.
- Colorado State University Extension. Sodium and the Diet.
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. Watch Your Fat, Sugar, and Salt.