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Healthy Eating


Recently, while shopping for groceries, I read an article that was put out by the supermarket. Part of that article was scary because it gave some statistics on the health of the American public and it wasn't good.

Too much fat, salt and cholesterol account for more than half of the top 10 killing diseases in this country.

Over half of America has a high blood cholesterol problem leading to strokes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Americans consume more than 1/3 percent of their total daily calories from fat. The recommended level is 30 percent.

One third of Americans are overweight.

Obesity in children has skyrocketed in the last 10 years.

The majority of Americans consume considerably more than the 2400 milligrams of sodium recommended putting them at risk for high blood pressure.

Most Americans eat only one half of the daily recommended amount of fiber risking colon cancer and heart disease.

What can we do about it? Well, there are several things that may not be as difficult as you might think. First of all, consider the basics of the Food Pyramid. Following are the per day rules starting at the bottom of the pyramid:

6 - 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta. A serving consists of 1 slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta.

2 - 3 servings of fruit. A serving consists of one medium piece of fresh fruit, 1/2 cup of chopped fresh, cooked or canned fruit, but fresh is best.

3 - 5 servings of fresh vegetables. A serving consists of 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup of other raw or cooked vegetables or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice.

2 - 3 servings of milk, cheese and yogurt. A serving consists of 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1-1/2 ounces of natural cheese or 2 ounces of pasteurized process cheese.

2 - 3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts. One serving consists of 3 ounces of meat, poultry or fish, 1/2 cup of dried beans, cooked, 1 egg, 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter or 8 or 9 nuts.

Use fats, oils and sweets sparingly.

Fad diets, yo-yo dieting, not enough exercise, fast food eating establishments, processed food preparation at home, eating late at night just prior to retiring, skipping breakfast plus not adhering to the above Food Pyramid all lend to the problem.

Now don't get me wrong. We love our rich desserts and baby back ribs. Mayonnaise is my absolute downfall. However, we have had to learn to eat using less salt due to my husband's clogged arteries and my Meniere's Disease. In addition we bought some really good non-stick pots and pans which we do not put in the dishwasher. We use non-stick spray instead of oil or butter in many cases. We use water or broth in "frying" vegetables such as onions, peppers, garlic, etc. There are some excellent substitutes you can use in the preparation of recipes to reduce the fat, calories and salt without jeopardizing the taste or consistency of the dish. Do we always stick to our diet? No, but we know we are eating healthier and we feel better for having made some changes.

A change of attitude about certain foods can give you a healthier diet. Consider dried beans for example. They are high in dietary fiber, iron, protein, folic acid and complex carbohydrates and they are low in fat and sodium. They have three times more fiber than oat bran which is touted to lower cholesterol. If you are a working mother, the beans can be soaked overnight and placed in a slow-cooking pot before you leave for work and when you return, you have part of dinner ready to serve. Use them in soups, salads or to replace meat in casseroles. Here are some statistics:

Type of Bean (1 cup cooked)

Fiber (gram)

Fat (gram)

Sodium (milligram)


Black beans





Black-eyed peas





Garbanzo beans





Great Northern





Kidney beans





Lentils beans





Lima beans





Navy beans





Pinto beans





Split peas





You can use canned beans since they are convenient, but the sodium level will increase greatly. You can reduce it by placing rinsing the beans in a colander and rinsing them well with cold water.

Total fat is the amount of all types of fat you should ingest in any given day. While not all experts agree on this total, most agree that it should not exceed 30 percent of your daily calories. When using oil, use the lowest in saturated fat such as corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil and olive oil. Whether you use margarine or butter, keep it at a minimum. Try using a low calorie jam on your toast instead of butter.

There are 3 kinds of fat:

Saturated fats are primarily found in meat, poultry and dairy products. This type of fat is mainly responsible for the high blood cholesterol and problems with heart disease. Therefore, if you consume no more than 30 percent of your calories from fat, you should hold your intake of saturated fat to no more than 10 percent or 1/3 of your total fat consumption.

Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil and canola oil. This can be part of your total daily consumption of fat.

Unsaturated fats are usually found in plants and fish. This fat is also part of your total daily consumption of fat.

If you consume 1500 calories, your total fat grams should be no more than 50 and your saturated fat grams should not exceed 17.

If you consume 2000 calories, your total fat grams should be no more than 67 and your saturated fat grams should not exceed 22.

If you consume 2500 calories, your total fat grams should be no more than 83 and your saturated fat grams should not exceed 28.

If you consume 3000 calories, your total fat grams should be no more than 100 and your saturated fat grams should not exceed 33.

That is a range and should give you an idea of how to adapt your total caloric intake and fat grams in your diet.

Cholesterol is an unnecessary part of out diet because out bodies can manufacture all the cholesterol it needs. This is why there are a growing number of vegetarians that have eliminated most or all animal fat from their diets. I feel this goes too far, but then I'm used to meat, eggs and cheese and would not even consider removing them from my diet. The problem that a lot of people have when they do this is that they also do not have enough protein in their diet. This can lead to all kinds of health problems. If you are trying to cut back on cholesterol, you don't have to eliminate all dairy products from your diet. Egg whites and skim milk are virtually cholesterol free. Plant products which include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, beans and oils do not contain cholesterol. However, some vegetables such as avocados, nuts and oils do contain fat.

Dietary sodium is an essential part of you daily dietary requirement in order to regulate the proper balance of vital chemicals and fluids in you system. However, it is possible to get too much and can eventually lead to high blood pressure, stroke and cancer of the stomach and esophagus. You should not exceed 2400 milligrams a day, which is equal to about

1-1/4 teaspoons of salt.

Only about 15 percent of our salt intake comes from table salt. Most of it comes from processed foods. Keep in mind that many restaurants use processed foods to make the job of the cook easier, faster and more consistent. This allows them to hire novices in the kitchen rather than chefs. Unfortunately, I've found that these non-chefs add salt to already salt-processed food rendering it almost inedible. MSG is high in sodium and many people, myself included are allergic to it. Unless you really feel it is essential, try not to use it. Try buying low sodium canned broth, canned tomatoes and juice and vegetables. When drinking carbonated beverages, choose those with no sodium. More and more items are appearing on our grocery shelves allowing us to eat healthier.

Fiber will really help in your diet, especially as you grow older. Try to eat at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Here are some ideas that can help increase your daily intake of fiber:

Use whole-wheat flour whenever possible in your cooking and baking (keep it in the freezer so it doesn't turn rancid).

Eat whole-grain breads, cereals and crackers.

Add some wheat germ or bran to your favorite hot cereal.

Add kidney beans garbanzos or other beans to salads or meat dishes.

Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day, preferably fresh or fresh-cooked and use, when possible, the whole fruits and vegetables rather than juice.

Mix chopped dried fruits into your cookies, muffins and breads before baking.

Use cereals with a minimum of 5 grams of fiber per serving.

Use brown rice rather than white rice when you cook.

Snack on fiber-rich foods such as raw vegetables with a reduced-fat dip, whole-grain cracker with reduced-fat cheese, popcorn (and not the high calorie theater popcorn either), and fruit.

Last of all, don't hesitate to take vitamin supplements. Be sure to check with your doctor on the recommended supplements and the dosage. Much depends on whether you are male or female, your age and current health. Check our link on vitamins.

You can make a difference in your life. It is up to you to make the changes to be able to enjoy a longer, healthier life.

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