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USDA Calorie Counting Tips

Restricting Fats and Consuming Fluids and Vitamins

We've covered the major staples of your diet, but there are other considerations for truly balanced nutrition.

Cutting Back the Fat

Fat plays an important role in satisfying hunger, but you need to be careful about the kind of fat you eat. Most of your dietary fat should come from oils: monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil and canola oil) and polyunsaturated fats (such as soybean, safflower, corn, and sunflower oils).


The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend that you limit your intake of saturated fat, in nonlean meat, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as palm kernel and coconut oil, to less than ten percent of your total calorie intake. And the Guidelines further recommend that you limit your intake of trans fats, which are hydrogenated fats (a process that changes unsaturated fats into saturated fats).

Trans fats are found in products such as margarine, fried foods, many baked goods, and other processed foods. Both saturated and trans fats spell trouble for your arteries and heart because they are converted into artery-clogging cholesterol in your body. To work fats into your weight-loss regime, you'll want to aim for the low end of your recommended amount, say 20 percent of calories from fat for adults. If you consume more fat than that, you'll end up tipping your calorie scale in the wrong direction. Make wise choices and eat modest amounts of heart-healthy oils while limiting the less-healthy solid fats.


Making wiser food choices isn't limited to solids; it includes beverages, too. Watching the amount of calories in beverages is another good way to consume fewer calories. Water has no calories, yet it keeps you feeling full and less likely to overeat. Increasing the amount of water you drink to eight cups per day is a good rule of thumb to follow. Although water does not supply any particular nutrients, it is an important part of a healthy weight loss plan. Water expands the fiber you eat, further helping you to feel full and satisfied. It assists in many bodily functions, and it helps turn stored body fat into energy by transporting the nutrients needed to make this happen. Water also prevents fatigue, mental confusion, and headaches. Fruits and vegetables have a high water content, so eating them will also increase your water intake.

Vitamins, Minerals and Phytochemicals

The Dietary Guidelines are adamant about choosing foods low in calories and brimming with nutrients. Nutrients include vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, as well as carbohydrate, protein, and fat. For good health while losing weight, you need the recommended amounts of vitamin A, numerous B-vitamins, and vitamins C, D, E, and K. Important minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, and potassium. Phytochemicals are natural plant substances that appear to help prevent cancer and may play a role in preventing many other chronic diseases. They include thousands of compounds, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isoflavones, and protease inhibitors.

Typically people eat too many foods low in vitamins and minerals but high in calories. The more foods and beverages you consume that are low in nutrient density, the harder it is to get all the vitamins and minerals you need without getting too many calories and gaining weight. For weight control and good health, it needs to be the other way around. Choose foods low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals most of the time. These nutrient-dense foods are the base of your balanced eating pattern. Sufficient vitamins and minerals enable the body to function properly and use up stored fat appropriately as fat cells release it. The best food choices to accomplish this include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy products, and lean protein sources.

The Dietary Guidelines and MyPyramid show you the way to a well-balanced, low-calorie eating plan. Delicious foods from every food group are included. No foods are forbidden. Both guides provide specific amounts of food to eat depending on the amount of calories you need to lose weight. Basing your eating routine on these guides and balancing it with adequate physical activity will put you on the road to a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle for life!

Controlling your caloric intake is a key when it comes to losing weight. But if you eat fewer calories, become more active and make wise decisions, a healthier lifestyle can be within your grasp.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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