USDA Nutrition Guidelines


Aside from helping you lose weight, the goal of the USDA Dietary Guidelines is to help you reach your overall nutrient requirements. Weight loss without good nutrition does not help you truly produce a healthy lifestyle. To eat according to the new food pyramid, you need to be knowledgeable about each food group. Then you can translate the facts into actions that will help control your weight and stay healthy. In this article, you will explore each food group to find out:

  • How Much for Me?: the amount of food you need from each food group

  • What's in It for Me?: the contributions each food group makes to your health

  • Best Bites for Weight Loss: the lowest-calorie choices in each food group and how to comparison shop

  • Making It Work for You: strategies for including this food in your daily routine

  • Go for the Goal: goals for improving your intake of the food in each group

Let's begin with a crash course on how to read nutrition labels.

The Nutrition Facts panel on food packages is an important complementary tool of MyPyramid and the Dietary Guidelines. Knowing how to use it will help you avoid foods that might sabotage your weight-loss plan. Once you know what to look for on labels, you can apply your label know-how to foods in each food group:

Serving Size

This is the first listing on the panel, and understanding it is key to deciding how a particular food fits into your calorie budget. The serving size is NOT necessarily the whole package, nor is it necessarily the amount of food you actually eat. The serving size is simply a standard amount used in the food industry.

For instance, a can of soup that you consider to be one lunchtime serving may actually be two if you consult the label. And that bitsy bag of chips likely isn't one serving either. All the nutrient information on the label, including the number of calories and fat grams, is linked to the serving size, so be sure to compare it to what you actually eat. If you don't, you can blow your whole day's diet without realizing it. At first glance, the calorie count on that little bag of chips may not seem too bad, but when you realize there are two servings and you have to double the number of calories (or eat half the bag), it will look a lot different.

Any time you eat more or less than the serving listed, you'll need to adjust the nutrition information accordingly. In the sample label below, the serving size is listed as one cup. If you eat half a cup, you'll only get half the calories: 130 instead of 260. The same goes for the nutrients. On the other hand, if you eat two cups of this food, you'll get double the nutrients: 520 calories and twice as much of everything else, too.

nutrition label
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USDA nutrition labels are a great source of dietary information.

Compare, Compare, Compare

When you're trying to lose weight, the Nutrition Facts label is also a good tool for comparison shopping. First, check the serving size on both labels to make sure you're comparing the same serving size. If the serving sizes are different, you'll need to make adjustments. For instance, if you're comparing a one-cup serving with a half-cup serving, you'll need to double all the nutritional values on the second product. Only then will you discover which is a better nutritional bargain.

Sometimes it might not be so easy to compare serving sizes. One package might say five crackers are a serving, while another says that 12 crackers make a serving. The difference is in the size and weight of the crackers -- some are small or light and others are large or dense. To make a valid comparison, check the number of grams in parentheses after the serving size. If the weights are similar, you can make a direct comparison and an informed decision.

Percentage of Daily Value

The "% Daily Value" gives you an at-a-glance idea of the nutrients in a serving of food and how it fits into your diet. Think of the Daily Value as your "allowance" or "budget" for the various nutrients.

Each day you start with an allowance of 100 percent for every nutrient. Aim to keep your total daily intake to less than 100 percent for Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium. Other nutrients you want to get plenty of -- fiber, vitamins, and minerals -- are listed closer to the bottom of the label. Aim to get 100 percent or more of these nutrients each day.

The sample food in the label shown has a % Daily Value for fat of 20 percent. That means one serving, in this case one cup, of the food uses up 20 percent of your daily fat allowance. Eat two servings, and you've suddenly used up 40 percent of your daily fat budget -- almost half of the total amount of fat you should eat in a day.

Daily Value numbers are based on a 2,000 calorie eating pattern. If your eating pattern has only 1,800 calories, then one serving of the food would actually use up a little more of your fat allowance for the day. A quick way to use the % Daily Value is to remember that 5 percent or less of a nutrient is low for a serving, and 20 percent or more is high.

Now that you're armed with label lingo, you're ready to discover how to put the USDA Dietary Guidelines into action for each food group in your food pattern. We'll explore MyPyramid section by section, starting on the left side with grains.



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.

Grain Basics

Grain foods, especially whole grains, are a great source of fiber and other nutrients. They include bread, cereals, rice, pasta, and crackers. The starch in grains is an easy energy source for all your body's activities. Grain foods are represented by the broad orange band on MyPyramid. Whole grains are your wisest choice for getting fiber and nutrients. A whole grain contains its entire kernel. The kernel has three components -- the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. These parts of the grain hold the fiber and most of the nutrients that give you good health. This article will focus on grain consumption and nutrition. We'll get started with daily grain recommendations.

Grains
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Grains are a good source for fiber and other nutrients.

How Much Should I Eat?

People watching their weight will probably eat five or six "ounce-equivalents" of grain each day. The Dietary Guidelines recommend at least half of these ounce-equivalents (oz-eq) be whole grain. An ounce-equivalent (one serving) is the same as 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta, or cooked cereal, 1 ounce dry pasta or rice, 1 slice bread, 1 small muffin weighing about 1 ounce (most bakery muffins weigh 5 to 6 ounces), or 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal flakes. This amount of carbohydrates will keep your body fueled, especially as you're becoming more active. Carbohydrates, along with repeated physical exertion, are the key to building muscle strength and endurance, so don't skip the carbs.


How Much Fiber Do You Need?
Aim for about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat. That's about one gram of fiber for every 70 calories. On an 1,800-calorie-a-day food pattern, that would come to 25 grams of fiber.
What's In It for Me?


Eating 3 ounce-equivalents or more of whole grains each day can help with weight management as well as reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. Whole-grain foods are chock-full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and several special phytochemicals. These phytochemicals include phytoestrogens, phenolic compounds, and phytic acid. Phytoestrogens mimic your body's own more potent estrogens. Phytoestrogens may help prevent estrogen-linked cancers such as breast cancer. Phenolic compounds are potent antioxidants and cancer fighters. Phytic acid prevents the formation of cell-damaging antioxidants and also fights cancer.

When whole grains are processed, many of the phytochemicals, nutrients, and fiber are lost. The bran and germ, which are the most nutrient-dense, are discarded during milling, leaving only the starchy endosperm that has few nutrients. In the case of wheat, this starchy endosperm becomes white flour. White flour is an example of a processed, or refined, grain. Most refined grains are enriched before being made into foods such as bread, cereal, pasta, and flour. When making flour in the United States, food processors are required to replace some of the nutrients lost in refining. Although four B-vitamins and iron are added back to refined flour, many nutrients are not replaced.

The missing-in-action list includes chromium and fiber. Chromium is a mineral vital to processing the carbohydrates you eat. Fiber, of course, creates a feeling of fullness and helps keep your digestive tract on track. Enriched products contain more iron and folate than were originally present in the whole grain. This is because of the important role they play in good health. If you choose to make all of your grain choices whole grains, the Dietary Guidelines suggest that some of them be folate-fortified to make sure you get enough of this important nutrient.

Best Bites for Weight Loss

As you focus on eating more whole-grain foods, remember to eat fewer processed grain products to avoid exceeding the calorie level of your eating pattern. Portion size is important, too. Grains are great -- but not too much of them! To eat fewer calories when choosing grain products, check the Nutrition Facts panel. Look for products that have the most fiber with the least amount of calories, fat -- especially saturated fat -- and sugar. You may be surprised to find considerable amounts of fat and sugar in grain foods. These calorie-laden additions often hide in cereals and crackers, in addition to cookies and many bakery goods.

Be a Label Looker

Which of the granolas have the most fiber? The least sugar? The least fat and saturated fat? Which granola would be the best choice? How does it compare to the oatmeal? Which has the least calories?


Grain Suggestions
There's more to whole grains than whole-wheat and bran. Try a recipe or two that uses grains you're not familiar with -- you'll be pleasantly surprised by the new flavors and textures. And you'll benefit from the additional nutrients when you broaden your selection of grains.

Choose from the following whole grains:

  • Whole wheat

  • Whole oats/oatmeal

  • Whole-grain corn

  • Popcorn

  • Brown rice

  • Whole rye
As a general guideline, choose cereals that have 2 grams or more of fiber, 5 grams or less of added sugar, and less than
2 grams of fat. It's not always easy to tell which cereals are whole grain. Foods you might think are whole grain, such as Cream of Wheat, Cream of Rice, grits, and corn flakes, are
not whole grain. Cereals that do contain the whole kernel of grain include Cheerios, granola or muesli, Grape-Nuts, oatmeal, raisin bran, shredded wheat, Total, Wheatena, and Wheaties, to name some popular ones. Many natural food stores carry whole-grain cereals. It doesn't get any easier in the bread aisle. When choosing whole-grain bread, don't rely on color. Manufacturers often use coloring, such as caramel coloring in wheat bread, to make you think it is a whole-grain product when it's not. Look for products that say "100% whole" or "whole" before the name of the grain, such as "100% whole-wheat bread" or "whole-oat cereal."

The whole grain should be the first ingredient in the ingredient list. Terms such as wheat flour, enriched flour, and degerminated cornmeal are processed, not whole, grains. Don't fall for misleading labels or you'll miss out on the filling fiber and nutrients you need.

Practice Portion Control

Choose breads that are not only whole grain but also small in size. A slice of bread used to be about the size of a compact disc cover. Now the standard slice of bread is about one and a half times that size. This means more calories, not only from each slice of bread you eat but also from all the items you put on the bread. When you make a sandwich with the larger slices, you get half-again as much mayonnaise, tuna salad, or peanut butter than if you used the smaller slices.

Portion sizes for many grain foods, such as bagels and muffins, have increased dramatically over the years. For instance, one-half of a small bagel (3.5 inches in diameter) is a little more than one ounce. That means the whole bagel will give you a little more than 2 ounce-equivalents for one-third of your daily grain requirements. A whole medium bagel (4.5 inches in diameter) packs nearly 4 ounce-equivalents and about 100 more calories than the smaller one.

Crackers, such as whole wheat or whole rye crackers, can be a source of whole grains. Choose the ones lowest in fat.

In the next section, we will discuss ways to better implement grains into your diet.

Recommended Daily Grain Intake

 Calorie Level
1,400-1,800
1,800-2,000
2,200
Grains
5 oz-eq
6 oz-eq
7 oz-eq
Whole Grains
3
3
3.5
Other Grains
2
2
2.5

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.

Incorporating Grains Into Your Diet

So how do you make sure you get enough grains in your diet?  Simple. Stock your kitchen with delicious whole-grain foods you like. If you have whole-grain choices on hand all the time, it will be easy to fill up on the fiber they have to offer.

Here are some tips to get you going:
  • While you're getting used to whole-grain bread, make sandwiches with one slice of whole-grain bread and one slice of your regular bread. Eventually switch to all whole-grain.

  • To get used to the delightful flavor of brown rice, cook a pot of rice that's half brown and half white. As long as the grain lengths are the same, they will cook in the same amount of time. For instance, use 1 cup long-grain brown rice mixed with 1 cup long-grain white rice. Cook as usual.

  • Stash snack mixes with whole grains in your cupboard, car, or desk for an easy snack.
Try this recipe for an easy snack mix:

Low-Fat Cracker Mix
  • 2 cups each of several low-fat, whole-grain crackers such as Triscuit, Rye-Crisp, Ak-Mak and others (break large crackers into bite-size pieces)

  • 2 cups pretzels

  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
To include more whole grains in your routine, use whole-grain crackers in different ways. Try spreading bean dip on them and top with a piece of tomato. Place a small slice of reduced-fat cheese and a slice of cucumber on top of a cracker. Or make miniature sandwiches using whole-grain crackers. Keep whole-grain rice cakes on hand for a crunchy snack. Add toppings such as hummus (Middle Eastern spread made from chickpeas) and bell pepper slices. When choosing tortillas, use either corn tortillas, which are lower in fat and calories than flour tortillas, or whole-wheat flour tortillas. Keep an eye out for whole-wheat "low-carb" tortillas, which have extra fiber added to them. Don't be concerned about the low-carb aspect; it's the extra fiber that's a boon. Whole-wheat tortillas make easy wraps or quesadillas. Fill wraps with your favorite vegetables, beans, and flavorful low-fat sauces. Sprinkle reduced-fat cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla and melt under the broiler.

Making oatmeal? Replace a tablespoon or two of oats with oat bran. Even though oatmeal is a whole grain, oat bran is a concentrated source of fiber. Do the same with hot wheat cereals -- add a little wheat bran to increase the fiber content. If you're baking, use whole-wheat flour to replace at least part of the white flour. Whole-wheat flour can replace up to one-half the white flour without making any other adjustments. If replacing all the flour with whole-wheat flour, use two tablespoons less whole-wheat flour per cup of white flour. Or, you could replace 2 to 4 tablespoons of flour with wheat bran or oat bran for a real fiber boost. Whole-grain pastas have improved since they first appeared on store shelves many years ago. Try different brands until you find one you like. Some natural food stores carry a brand that's half whole grain and half refined grain. Or you can mix half whole-grain pasta with half regular pasta at home until your taste buds adjust.

Setting Grain Goals

To start off on the whole-grain path, consider the following goals:
  • I will buy whole-grain bread this week and use it at least once every other day to replace my white bread.

  • I will buy whole-grain crackers and eat some for an afternoon snack three days this week.
Grain foods are a great source of fiber and other nutrients that will help you stay healthy. With the right approach, you can work them into your diet rather easily. Once you've accomplished that, you can start thinking about adding more vegetables, which we'll discuss in the next section.

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.

Vegetable Basics

Evidence continues to mount on the value of vegetables. In studies around the world, the more vegetables people eat, the lower their risk of chronic diseases. Vegetables play this starring role because they are low in calories, full of fiber, and packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Non-starchy vegetables have only about 25 calories per 1/2 cup, so they're a great component of any weight-loss plan. This article will give you the nutritional information you need to know about vegetables, as well as some tips on how to work the proper amount of veggies into your diet. Let's get started with some advice on how to pick the right vegetables.

Veggies
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In order to ensure a healthy diet, you should make sure to eat
the recommended daily servings of vegetables on a regular basis.

Color is Key

Choose colorful veggies to get the most health benefits. The substances that provide vegetables with their beautiful array of colors are disease-fighting phytochemicals. Make your plate pass the "rainbow test" at every meal, and you'll have a plate full of goodness. In addition to recommending an overall amount of vegetables, the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines go a step further. For the first time, the Guidelines recommend intake levels for each type of vegetable. These amounts are given per week, rather than per day, because it would be difficult to eat some of each kind of vegetable every day.

How Many Servings Per Day?

Weight-watchers will probably aim to eat two to three cups of vegetables each day. Think of eating the amounts listed in the subgroups, 1/2 cup or more at a time, several times a week. Instead of numbers on a chart, they suddenly become an achievable -- and delicious -- food plan. The most nutrient-dense vegetables -- those in the dark green subcategory -- unfortunately are also those that Americans are least likely to consume. They include broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce, and collard, turnip, and mustard greens. Aim to get 1/2 cup four to six days a week.

Orange vegetables are commonly eaten thanks to carrots, but others in this group include sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash, and pumpkin. Aim to get 1/2 cup three or four times a week.

Legumes include all cooked dry beans and peas, such as black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, navy beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, and soybean products. Aim for two or three cups a week; that translates into 1/2 cup five or six days a week or 1 cup two to three times a week, in such foods as chili or soup.

Starchy vegetables include white potatoes, green peas, jicama, and corn. Aim to get 1/2 cup five or six days a week.

The "Other Vegetables" subgroup includes tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, onions, lettuces other than romaine, mushrooms, cauliflower, peppers, cabbage, eggplant, and more. The eating patterns recommend 51/2 to 7 cups per week, which breaks down to about 1 cup five to seven days a week.

If all that sounds like a lot of vegetables -- it is! The Dietary Guidelines recommend making vegetables a major component of your eating pattern. Why? Because veggies make it easy to eat fewer calories, manage your weight, and decrease your risk of chronic conditions. An easy way to think about it is to fill half of your lunch and dinner plates with vegetables. Heap them up partially with salad and partially with cooked veggies, and you'll be well on your way to filling up on nutrient-dense food. Round out your plates by dividing the remaining half into two quarters -- fill one with protein and the other with grain, such as a whole-grain roll, pasta, or rice.

Recommended Weekly Vegetable Servings

 Calorie Level
1,200-1,400
1,600
1,800
2,200-2,400
Vegetables
1.5 cups (3 srv)
2 cups (4 srv)
2.5 cups (5 srv)
3 cups (6 srv)
Dark green vegetables
1.5 cups/week
2 cups/week
3 cups/week
3 cups/week
Orange vegetables
1 cup/week
1.5 cups/week
2 cups/week
2 cups/week
Legumes
1 cup/week
2.5 cups/week
3 cups/week
3 cups/week
Starchy vegetables
2.5 cups/week
2.5 cups/week
3 cups/week
6 cups/week
Other vegetables
4.5 cups/week
5.5 cups/week
6.5 cups/week
7 cups/week

What's In It For Me?

Vegetables are nutrient powerhouses that are low in calories and full of fiber, which expands in your digestive tract and sends the "I'm satisfied and full" signal to your brain. As a result, you get full on fewer calories, and the calorie-balance scale will tip toward weight loss. Dark green vegetables are the lowest in calories and among the highest in nutrients. They're brimming with vitamins C, E, and K; vitamin A as beta-carotene; several B vitamins including folate, which helps prevent certain birth defects; and magnesium. Some offer bone-building calcium as well.

Store Vegetables with Care
Unlike vitamins, the minerals in your vegetables are not destroyed by heat, air, and light. But you can lose them if you're not careful. If you cook vegetables in water, some of the minerals leach into the water and go down the drain when you throw out the cooking water. Instead, lightly steam vegetables, or cook in the microwave to retain the most minerals. If you boil veggies in water, save the water for your next batch of soup. Keep leftover cooking water in the refrigerator and use within several days.

Wondering which lettuce gives you the most nutritional bang for your buck? Romaine contains the most nutrients. Dark-leaf varieties have more nutrients than those with lighter leaves. The ever-popular iceberg lettuce, for instance, offers little but water and a tiny bit of fiber. Orange vegetables are great sources of vitamin A as beta-carotene, a powerful cell-protecting antioxidant. The body turns beta-carotene into vitamin A, which plays a role in healthy eyes, skin, and bones. Legumes are fiber-rich and a good protein source. But when you eat legumes, count them only as vegetable or protein, not both. Double-counting will alter your total calorie intake, and if you double-count frequently, you could shortchange yourself on nutrients.

Legumes are packed with fiber, particularly soluble fiber -- the kind that helps your body get rid of artery-clogging cholesterol. But it also contains insoluble fiber, the kind that swells and keeps you feeling fuller, longer. Legumes provide iron and magnesium, too -- minerals that are often in short supply.

Starchy vegetables are just that -- good sources of starch, or carbohydrate, that your body needs to make energy. They tend to be a little higher in calories than most other veggies but still have relatively few calories compared to other foods. They contain good amounts of potassium and fiber, too.

All the other vegetables, which don't fit into one of the above subgroups, add a great variety of tastes, textures, and colors to our eating routine. Eat a wide variety of them to get an abundance of different nutrients as well as potassium and fiber, which are found in all vegetables. In the next section we will offer a look at better and different ways to ensure you're including a good number of vegetables in your diet.

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.

Incorporating Vegetables Into Your Diet

Making Salads
Bagged lettuces, cabbage, and other vegetables make it easy to build a salad. Read the bag to see whether the contents are "ready-to-eat" or if you need to wash them. Ready-to-eat, prewashed bagged produce can be used without further washing as long as you keep it refrigerated and use it by the "Use by" date on the package. You may be tempted to buy alfalfa or bean sprouts along with other salad veggies. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend against eating raw sprouts of any kind because of the routine presence of potentially harmful bacteria.
Since most vegetables are low in calories, they are great choices for weight loss. But it's up to you to preserve their low-calorie nature by preparing them wisely. The Food Guide eating patterns assume vegetables are eaten without added fats or sugars. If you add fat or sugar, you begin using up your discretionary calorie allowance. Use low- or nonfat cooking methods, such as steaming and microwaving, to avoid using up some of your discretionary calories. In fact, steaming preserves the most nutrients. Since starchy vegetables have the most calories in the veggie world, do not eat more than the recommended amounts.

Microwaving is best for frozen vegetables or the varieties that take a long time to cook. Place in a glass dish with a little bit of water in the bottom and cover with a glass lid (if you use plastic wrap, do not allow it to touch the food while microwaving). Use light margarine sparingly on corn, or skip it entirely and lightly sprinkle corn with chili powder for a punch of flavor. For flavor, top your smartly-cooked veggies with herbs or spices, a sprinkle of no-sodium herb/spice blend, or a squeeze of lemon. Or make a simple sauce. Try mixing nonfat plain yogurt with minced garlic and chopped mint or cilantro leaves (not both) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. A sauce with southwestern flare can easily be made by mixing together a little lime juice, vinegar, minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper along with a touch of olive oil. A small amount of oil helps hold the spicy mixture on the veggies.

Putting Vegetables on the Menu


Vegetables never need to be overcooked and boring -- quite the opposite: They can be the tasty centerpiece of your meals. Use any vegetable that is convenient for you -- fresh, frozen, or canned. Enjoy a variety within each subgroup so that you get many different flavors as well as nutrients.

 

Vegetable Variety
What vegetables can be found in your refrigerator? Do you have a variety of colors? A variety of subgroups? When you shop, keep the subgroups in mind and get several from each one. Keep your refrigerator brimming with vegetables in a variety of colors. Keep frozen vegetables on hand for when you come up short on fresh veggies. Choose ones without added sauces to keep the calories low. Add your own flavorings.

Finding delicious ways to prepare vegetables is key to eating more of these low-calorie foods -- and you don't have to be a master chef to do it. Creativity will take you a long way. For instance, instead of eating plain carrot sticks, slice them into rounds and lightly coat with a low-fat marinade or bottled salad dressing.

Or steam carrots, then toss with a splash of orange juice and ground ginger. Or oven roast the carrots: Cut into pieces, toss with a light coating of cooking spray and your favorite herb or two, and bake in a hot oven until tender. Three delicious, low-calorie ways to enjoy carrots and none of them took a recipe. You can do the same with other vegetables.

 

To make salad preparation easier, either buy bagged romaine lettuce and spinach or buy a salad spinner. You can easily cut up a head of romaine, toss it in the basket of your salad spinner, wash thoroughly, then spin dry. Store in a plastic, recloseable bag in the refrigerator. Cut up other veggies that you like in your salads and keep them in containers in the refrigerator. They'll be quick to add to your greens so you'll be more likely to include them -- and that will boost your intake. Prepare small bags of a colorful variety of washed and cut veggies. Store them in the refrigerator. Now they're easy to toss into a lunch sack or munch on for a snack at home or in the car.

 

The USDA Dietary Guidelines also urge you to eat more legumes, but you may not know how to do that. Even if you don't like beans by themselves, you'll probably like them when you mix them with other flavors. There are quick and easy ways you can add them to your eating routine. Keep a variety of canned beans in the cupboard. Then rinse, drain, and store a can at a time in the refrigerator.

Here are a few other ideas for bean preparations:

  • Add beans to sauteeing garlic as in the description above for fixing greens. Then add the greens and you have a filling side dish with few calories and a great flavor combination.
  • Top your salad with a few white beans.
  • Add black beans to cheese quesadillas.
  • Use the blender to "hide" beans in spaghetti sauce -- blend your sauce and beans together, then serve over pasta.
  • Use beans instead of meat in Mexican tostadas, enchiladas, tacos, and chili.

Stir-frying in a wok or skillet is another delicious low-calorie cooking method. Add a small amount of fat-free broth, nonstick cooking spray, or oil to a pan and, over medium heat, toss vegetables until crisp-tender. Start with the vegetables that take the most time to cook, and add the more delicate ones toward the end of stir-frying to avoid overcooking them.

Squash or pumpkin puree makes a great nonfat thickener in soups and stews. Use "other vegetables" liberally. Top a pizza with them; add to a casserole, pasta, or rice dish, or include in a tortilla wrap. Become vegetable conscious. Get creative and add them wherever you can even if a recipe doesn't call for them. Soon you'll be filling up on fewer calories than ever before.

Setting Vegetable Goals

Tasty Vegetable Combinations
To help you eat fewer calories, replace fat-based toppings with fresh or dried herbs and spices. Experiment to find combinations you like. Here are a few traditional favorites to get you started.
  • Beets -- Cinnamon, cloves

  • Broccoli -- Lemon juice, dry mustard, toasted sesame seeds

  • Brussels sprouts -- Lemon juice, marjoram

  • Cabbage -- Cumin, sage

  • Carrots -- Dill, ginger, nutmeg

  • Cauliflower -- Parsley, paprika

  • Corn -- Garlic, chili powder, parsley, paprika

  • Greens (spinach, kale, chard) -- Garlic, marjoram, cinnamon

  • Peas -- Oregano, tarragon

  • Pea pods or snow peas -- Lemon juice, garlic

  • Peppers --Garlic, tomato sauce

  • Potatoes -- Paprika, parsley, garlic, chives

  • Summer squash (zucchini, crookneck) -- Basil, garlic, oregano

  • Sweet potatoes -- Cinnamon, cloves, ginger

  • Turnips or parsnips -- Orange juice, ginger, parsley,

  • Tomatoes -- Basil, marjoram, oregano

  • Winter squash (acorn, Hubbard, butternut) -- Allspice, cinnamon, oregano, toasted sage leaves

Now that you know how to include more veggies in your diet, take a moment to set an effective goal or two. They might be as easy as this:

  • Starting tomorrow, I will take a baggie of veggies to have with my sandwich at least three days this week. I'll eat them instead of chips on those days.
  • I will eat a salad AND a steamed vegetable with dinner four nights this week.
  •  

Vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Incorporating them into your daily routine is just a matter of planning and preparation. Another source of good nutrition is the long-time companion of vegetables: fruit. We'll discuss fruit's role in your diet in the next section.

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.

Dairy Guidelines

Well-known for building strong bones and teeth, the calcium in dairy products may have another starring role. Some studies indicate it promotes weight loss. Although the verdict isn't in, getting two to three servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy is critical to your overall health regardless of its role in weight loss. Dairy products will certainly protect your bones, and they will provide you with other vital nutrients. In this article we will explain how to make dairy an important and vital part of your life.

How Much Dairy Should I Be Consuming?

Adults need to consume about 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Doing this helps protect bones from calcium loss. Your body uses calcium for other important functions, too, and if you don't consume enough calcium each day for those other functions, your body automatically withdraws it from your bones. To preserve your bones, consume the recommended three cups of nonfat milk, yogurt, or other dairy products each day if you follow an eating pattern of 1,600 or more calories a day. Cheese is measured in ounces, not cups: 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese such as cheddar or 2 ounces of processed cheese equal 1 cup. Remember to count the calories from fat in your discretionary calorie budget if you choose low-fat or full-fat dairy products.

Dairy Tips

Got milk? Is it nonfat? Check your yogurt and cheese for sugar and fat, respectively. Next trip to the store, get nonfat milk or skim deluxe. Team that up with "light" or nonfat yogurts and 2% milk cheeses. Inspect your juice. Is it calcium fortified? If not, you know what to do! Check your cold cereals. Do any of them sport the blue calcium-added banner? If not, keep that in mind next time you purchase cereal -- remember to also look for cereals that contain 2 or more grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of sugar.
Benefits of Dairy

The potential power of calcium to promote weight loss is a great reason to eat the recommended amount of dairy foods. In addition, you get calcium, vitamin D to help you use the calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, several B-vitamins, and other helpful nutrients in each serving.

Best Bites for Weight Loss

Of course the best bites for dairy foods are those that are fat free. Not everyone likes the taste or texture of fat-free milk, though. Milk producers are aware of this, and some make skim (fat-free) milk with the taste and texture of 2% milk by adding a natural gum to slightly thicken the milk without adding calories. Look for "skim deluxe" or similar wording on the carton.

Compare the amount of fat calories and saturated fat calories in whole milk and nonfat milk. If you drank 3 cups of whole milk in a day, you'd use up 75 percent of your artery-clogging saturated fat budget and consume 450 calories. Drinking 3 cups of nonfat milk would use up only 270 calories and none of your fat budget.

Other calorie-savers in the dairy department are "light" yogurts. Not only is the yogurt fat free, but it's sugar-free too. The sweetener aspartame (brand name Equal) eliminates the seven teaspoons of sugar typically added to fruit-flavored yogurts. Always compare calories when choosing yogurt. When selecting cheese, choose part-skim mozzarella; it's lower in fat than other cheeses. Mozzarella cheese sticks (sometimes called "string cheese") are a good way to control portions -- one stick is one ounce, or almost one serving. Choose cheddar, American, and other cheeses that are made with 2% milk -- look for "Made with 2% milk" on the front of the label. These have one-third less fat than cheese made with whole milk.

Another calorie-cutting trick is to use a strong-flavored cheese in small amounts. A slight sprinkle of Asiago (a hard, grated cheese) or a few crumbles of Gorgonzola (a blue cheese) add a lot of flavor without taking a big bite out of your discretionary calorie allowance. Go easy on frozen yogurt and ice cream. Compare labels and choose "light" versions that are low in fat, sugar, and calories. Keep portion size under control, too. A serving of ice cream is 1/2 cup -- not a huge bowlful.

Incorporating Dairy Into Your Daily Diet

Getting three servings a day can be as easy as having one serving of milk, yogurt, or cheese with each meal. If that doesn't suit you, try these options:

  • Cook oatmeal with milk instead of water -- 3 minutes in the microwave and you're ready to eat a calcium-rich, whole-grain breakfast!

  • Drink all the milk you put on your cold cereal.

  • Enjoy an 8-ounce latte made with nonfat milk and decaf coffee.

  • Add reduced-fat cheese to a sandwich.

  • Take along light yogurt for a mid-morning snack.

  • Eat a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick for an afternoon snack.

  • Add a few tablespoons or more of nonfat powdered milk to smoothies, soups, casseroles, sauces, gravies, baked goods, and pudding for a calcium boost.
If you have a lactose intolerance and cannot eat dairy products or if you choose not to eat dairy, there are still tasty ways to get the calcium you need:
  • Choose lactose-free milk or take enzyme tablets of lactase before eating dairy foods.

  • Drink fortified soy or rice milk. Check the Nutrition Facts panel and make sure it lists the calcium content as 25 to 30 percent. This means that one serving supplies 25 to 30 percent of the calcium you need in a day. Choose the "plain" varieties rather than vanilla or chocolate so you get less sugar and fewer calories.

  • Drink fortified juices. Look for the blue calcium banner on the front of the label. Check the Nutrition Facts panel to make sure its calcium content is 30 percent. Notice that unfortified juice has very little calcium. Since juice is concentrated and rather high in calories, drink it in moderation to fit into your calorie balance.

  • Eat calcium-fortified cereals. These carry a blue banner.

  • Eat greens, such as broccoli, kale, collard greens, and cabbage. They are good sources of calcium and low in calories.

  • Eat tofu made with calcium sulfate.

If three servings of dairy foods is more than you normally eat, remember to decrease other foods, especially the discretionary-calorie types of food, so you keep calories under control.

Setting Dairy Goals

To get the calcium you need, consider setting a goal similar to one of these:

  • I will eat a calcium-rich food at every meal at least five days this week.

  • I will take yogurt to work with me for a morning snack and a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick for an afternoon snack at least three days this week.

The last stripe on MyPyramid is for proteins. Your body needs protein, and we'll look at healthy ways to incorporate meats, nuts, and legumes into your diet in the next section.

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.

Protein Guidelines

Smart choices to get the protein you need include lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, nut butters, and seeds. If you don't eat meat, fish, or poultry, combine grains with legumes often to make a delicious dish -- and a complete protein. When your meal includes legumes, remember to count them as a vegetable OR a protein food, not both, so your calorie and nutrient intakes are not jeopardized.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

Americans tend to overconsume protein, which can mean taking in more fat and calories than you need, as well. You may be surprised to find out that you only need five to six ounce-equivalents (oz-eq) of protein foods for good health. An oz-eq is equal to:

  • 1 ounce lean meat, fish, or poultry

  • 1 egg

  • 1/4 cup cooked legumes or tofu

  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter

  • 1/2 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) nuts or seeds

The table below will give you a better idea of how much protein you should be consuming, according to your calorie level.

Daily Calorie Level
1,600
1,800
2,000
2,200
Lean meat and beans
5 oz-eq
5 oz-eq
5.5 oz-eq
6 oz-eq

This works out to about two servings of protein each day. Your piece of meat, fish, or poultry should be modest in size, about the size of a deck of cards (roughly 3 ounces), to avoid going overboard on protein as well as calories.

Benefits of Protein

Protein is the building block for all body tissues. It also plays a vital role in many body functions, such as forming hormones and making antibodies to fight infection. Protein also helps you feel satisfied because it takes longer than carbohydrates to digest.

Best Bites for Weight Loss

The Buzz on Beans
Beans are high in fiber and often get a bad rap for causing gas. There's an unusual carbohydrate in fiber that the human body does not have the enzymes to digest. Bacteria in your large intestine digest some of the fiber, and this in turn produces gas.

There are several things you can do to reduce gas from beans:
  • Increase your fiber consumption slowly. This allows the body and intestinal bacteria to adjust and make less gas.

  • Start with legumes that are easier to digest, such as lentils and split peas. Kidney beans are the hardest to digest.

  • If you cook your own beans, soak them overnight and pour off the soaking water before cooking. This procedure draws out some of the trouble-causing carbohydrate from the beans, and it is drained away with the soaking water.

  • An enzyme product, such as Beano, taken with your first bite of beans may help prevent gas.

Lean sources of protein are the wisest choices for eating fewer calories. For example, choose lean meats and poultry, and trim away all visible fat. To further reduce fat and calories, drain the fat off cooked meats. If you're browning ground beef to use in dishes such as chili and tacos, give it a quick rinse with hot water, then drain. Rinsing and draining ground beef removes about 70 percent of the fat.

Poultry can be a low-calorie protein choice. You no longer need to remove the skin from your chicken until after cooking. Studies show that no significant amount of fat migrates into the meat, and the skin holds in moisture while cooking. If you're eating ground poultry products, choose those that are 100 percent breast meat, otherwise you can end up with a very high-fat product. If the label doesn't state "100% ground breast," that means skin and other poultry parts are tossed into the ground mix, adding fat.

Try low-fat alternatives to traditionally high-fat meats. For instance, turkey bacon or turkey pepperoni make great lower-fat substitutes for regular pepperoni. Most fish are relatively low in calories, and those that are not offer heart-healthy fats that you don't need to worry about limiting.

Egg whites are a near-perfect protein and low in calories. Either separate the eggs, discarding the high-calorie yolks, or purchase pasteurized egg whites (the whites plus a little natural food coloring). Find them next to the eggs in the grocery store. For lower-calorie scrambled eggs, use pasteurized egg whites, adding spices and vegetables for flavor. Or use fresh eggs, discarding all but one or two yolks for a little color and flavor. You can safely leave out some of the egg yolks called for in baked goods, too, without losing flavor or texture.

Legumes and tofu offer more low-calorie alternatives to meat. So does texturized vegetable protein made from soybeans. Look for veggie crumbles in the freezer section next to the meatless burger patties. These foods can replace meat in soups, casseroles, chili, Mexican food, Asian food, spaghetti sauce, and more -- be creative! Tofu dogs or veggie hot dogs can stand in for the meat-variety and save you many saturated fat grams and hundreds of calories.

Nuts contribute heart-healthy fats as well as protein. However, they're high in calories, so eat only a tablespoon or two at a time. Use them mostly for enhancing flavor and adding crunch to foods rather than eating out of hand.

Incorporating Protein Into Your Diet

A simple way to get your protein allotment is to have a single serving at two different meals each day.

  • Use lean meats, fish, or poultry to avoid using up discretionary calories.

  • Include legumes or soy products as your protein source a couple of times each week.
Setting Protein Goals

Unlike other food categories, your goal with protein isn't to eat more. In fact, you might need to eat less than you usually do. But you could set a goal about using leaner meats or alternate protein sources such as legumes and soybean products. Consider something like this:
  • I will eat a bean and rice main dish one time this week.

  • I will order a tofu stir fry when I go out to eat this weekend.

Essential for proper nutrition, protein forms an important part of your daily diet. But knowing how much to consume can be a challenge. Use good preparation and planning to design the best diet for you!

An even bigger challenge is moderating the amount of sugar you eat. The next section deals with sugar, and how to make it a safe and healthy part of your diet.

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.

Sugar Guidelines

Sugar does not have its own special stripe on MyPyramid, yet recommendations about sugar consumption are an integral part of the USDA Dietary Guidelines, and their message is carried through in the pyramid.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend eating fewer sweets to reduce calorie intake, ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake, and control weight. Eating a lot of foods with added sugar typically crowds out more nutrient-dense foods, which is detrimental to your health and to your waistline. This article will help you to understand the role that sugar plays in your daily diet.

Sugars: Discretionary Calories

Added sugars, including sugars and syrups added at the table or in food processing or preparation, are empty calories because they have no nutritional value, yet they are loaded with calories. Sugars not naturally present in food are part of your discretionary calorie allowance. You need to carefully consider where to spend those discretionary calories, especially since they also include solid fats and alcohol. If you consume alcohol or higher-fat foods on one day, you'll need to really limit or avoid sweets altogether that day.

On the other hand, if you avoid fats and alcohol, you may have room in your calorie plan to have that favorite sweet treat. It's up to you to balance your discretionary calories. Read labels carefully. Sugar masquerades under many names in the ingredient list. To compare amounts of added sugars, check the "Sugars" portion of the Nutrition Facts panel. Keep in mind that the natural sugar in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) are also listed. These sugars are not much of a concern.

How Much Sugar Should I Eat?

The amount of added sugar listed in the discretionary calorie allowance is a maximum amount of sugar to consume each day. It is your "sugar budget," and you don't want to exceed it. This assumes that your solid fats are kept to the amounts listed in the fat section and you don't drink any alcohol that day. If you do, then you'll need to reduce your intake of added sugars and/or solid fats to keep your calorie scale in balance.

Below is a table that will help you estimate the amount of sugar you should eat each day, according to your calorie intake.

Daily Calorie Level
1,600
1,800
2,000
2,200
Added Sugars, Example
12 grams (3 tsp)
20 grams (5 tsp)
32 grams (8 tsp)
36 grams (9 tsp)


At first glance you may think you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps you don't add a lot of sugar at the table. Unfortunately, many processed foods have sugar added to them. Consider that a single 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of added sugar. An 8-ounce container of fruit-flavored yogurt typically has 7 teaspoons of added sugar, and a tablespoon of ketchup has 1 teaspoon of added sugar in every tablespoon. You can see that it's easy to exceed your sugar allowance unless you're very vigilant.

Benefits of Sugar

Not much for you in sugar -- they don't call it "empty calories" for nothing! Honey has a small amount of nutrients but is still a concentrated sweet. Molasses has a few minerals, but again, it's mostly concentrated sweetness. You'll do better getting your nutrients elsewhere in lower-calorie foods.

Hidden Sugars
What's in your pantry? You may not realize it, but these items are full of added sugar: fruit canned in heavy syrup, boxed or bottled juices that don't say 100 percent fruit juice on the label, and fruit snacks such as roll-ups or leathers that are not 100 percent fruit. Give them all away to someone who is not watching their weight, and be a label looker next time you shop. Get only fruit canned in its own juice or in light syrup, and juices and fruit snacks that are 100 percent fruit. The USDA Dietary Guidelines also recommend avoiding unpasteurized juice to prevent food-borne illness.
Best Bites for Weight Loss

Read the Nutrition Facts panel of foods to select those with the least amount of sugar and calories. Choose unsweetened foods as much as possible, such as unsweetened applesauce. Sugar-free foods, those sweetened with artificial sweeteners, are another choice. Some people prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners, in which case eat smaller amounts of the regular version of the food. Use fruit to sweeten foods so that you'll at least get some fiber, water, and nutrients along with sweetness. For instance, add fruit to cereal or yogurt. Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth -- it's much lower in calories than sugar-laden foods. Substituting fruit for candy bars -- even just some of the time -- will save you an enormous number of calories.

Sugar Consumption Tips

Assess Your Sugar
Don't throw out all the sweets in the cupboard at one time! You might have a mutiny on your hands if there are others in your household. Do check the foods you have on hand to assess which items are high in sugar. Dispose of a few first, and replace them with similar, lower-calorie choices. For instance, you might toss chocolate fudge cookies and replace them with fig bars -- so at least some of the sugar you're getting is from fruit.

Keep low-sugar snacks handy. The more healthy alternatives you have ready, the less likely you are to grab sweets on the run. Keep the cupboard and refrigerator stocked with low-sugar choices you've searched out at the supermarket. For instance, graham crackers and unfrosted animal crackers can satisfy a cookie craving with less sugar (and fat, too) than most cookies. Dried fruit can stand in for candy. Unsweetened iced tea can substitute for soda pop.

Keep high-sugar foods out of sight and hard to get to. Store sweets in the back of the cupboard so you can't see them: Out of sight, out of mind! Put sweets in the freezer, making them unavailable for a quick munch.

Keep low-sugar snacks available in the car. Try a mix like this that keeps well in a resealable plastic baggie:

Low-Sugar Cereal Mix

Toss together:
  • 1 cup each of several low-sugar, whole-grain cereals (e.g. Cheerios, Total, Grape-Nuts)

  • Raisins to taste

  • Handful of nuts or sunflower seeds
Other sugar tips to consider:
  • Use sugar from the sugar bowl sparingly. Sometimes adding a very small amount of sugar might make a healthy food palatable so that you'll eat it. For instance, most people don't care for unsweetened oatmeal, which is a great whole-grain food. But if a spoonful of maple syrup or brown sugar makes it acceptable to you, go ahead and use a little. This would be a wise way to use discretionary calories.

  • Eat only half your usual amount of high-sugar foods. Share dessert, put half away, or have a smaller portion to begin with.

  • Drink less sugar-laden pop and other sweetened beverages. Be sure to be a label looker when it comes to the beverage aisle. Many clear beverages with fruit pictured on their labels actually contain as much or more sugar than soda pop. Even "lightly sweetened" teas rival soft drinks in sugar content.

  • Choose unsweetened beverages when you can, or check the "Sugars" portion of the label. Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have only 14 grams of sugar per cup (compared to soda pop's typical 27 grams per cup), and the "light" versions of Gatorade and Powerade have only half that much -- 7 grams of sugar. Sparkling waters with natural flavorings often have no calories.

Setting Sugar Goals

As you set your goal for eating fewer sweets, start gradually or you'll feel deprived. Never forbid yourself a certain food. Eliminating a food from your diet only causes you to want the food more and eventually binge on it. Perhaps begin with goals such as:

  • Starting today, I will drink only one can of soda pop per day rather than my regular two, for five days of the week. (Make sure you have low-calorie alternatives that you like on hand.)

  • This week I will eat dessert after dinner only on Saturday.

As you can see, proper nutrition is a key element to healthy weight loss. Controlling your weight is not a simple matter of starving yourself. For lasting weight loss you need to feel full and energized. If you follow the USDA recommendations for each food group, you'll be well on your way to a healthier you.

©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.

Sugar Guidelines

Sugar does not have its own special stripe on MyPyramid, yet recommendations about sugar consumption are an integral part of the USDA Dietary Guidelines, and their message is carried through in the pyramid.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend eating fewer sweets to reduce calorie intake, ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake, and control weight. Eating a lot of foods with added sugar typically crowds out more nutrient-dense foods, which is detrimental to your health and to your waistline. This article will help you to understand the role that sugar plays in your daily diet.

Sugars: Discretionary Calories

Added sugars, including sugars and syrups added at the table or in food processing or preparation, are empty calories because they have no nutritional value, yet they are loaded with calories. Sugars not naturally present in food are part of your discretionary calorie allowance. You need to carefully consider where to spend those discretionary calories, especially since they also include solid fats and alcohol. If you consume alcohol or higher-fat foods on one day, you'll need to really limit or avoid sweets altogether that day.

On the other hand, if you avoid fats and alcohol, you may have room in your calorie plan to have that favorite sweet treat. It's up to you to balance your discretionary calories. Read labels carefully. Sugar masquerades under many names in the ingredient list. To compare amounts of added sugars, check the "Sugars" portion of the Nutrition Facts panel. Keep in mind that the natural sugar in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) are also listed. These sugars are not much of a concern.

How Much Sugar Should I Eat?

The amount of added sugar listed in the discretionary calorie allowance is a maximum amount of sugar to consume each day. It is your "sugar budget," and you don't want to exceed it. This assumes that your solid fats are kept to the amounts listed in the fat section and you don't drink any alcohol that day. If you do, then you'll need to reduce your intake of added sugars and/or solid fats to keep your calorie scale in balance.

Below is a table that will help you estimate the amount of sugar you should eat each day, according to your calorie intake.

Daily Calorie Level
1,600
1,800
2,000
2,200
Added Sugars, Example
12 grams (3 tsp)
20 grams (5 tsp)
32 grams (8 tsp)
36 grams (9 tsp)


At first glance you may think you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps you don't add a lot of sugar at the table. Unfortunately, many processed foods have sugar added to them. Consider that a single 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of added sugar. An 8-ounce container of fruit-flavored yogurt typically has 7 teaspoons of added sugar, and a tablespoon of ketchup has 1 teaspoon of added sugar in every tablespoon. You can see that it's easy to exceed your sugar allowance unless you're very vigilant.

Benefits of Sugar

Not much for you in sugar -- they don't call it "empty calories" for nothing! Honey has a small amount of nutrients but is still a concentrated sweet. Molasses has a few minerals, but again, it's mostly concentrated sweetness. You'll do better getting your nutrients elsewhere in lower-calorie foods.

Hidden Sugars
What's in your pantry? You may not realize it, but these items are full of added sugar: fruit canned in heavy syrup, boxed or bottled juices that don't say 100 percent fruit juice on the label, and fruit snacks such as roll-ups or leathers that are not 100 percent fruit. Give them all away to someone who is not watching their weight, and be a label looker next time you shop. Get only fruit canned in its own juice or in light syrup, and juices and fruit snacks that are 100 percent fruit. The USDA Dietary Guidelines also recommend avoiding unpasteurized juice to prevent food-borne illness.
Best Bites for Weight Loss

Read the Nutrition Facts panel of foods to select those with the least amount of sugar and calories. Choose unsweetened foods as much as possible, such as unsweetened applesauce. Sugar-free foods, those sweetened with artificial sweeteners, are another choice. Some people prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners, in which case eat smaller amounts of the regular version of the food. Use fruit to sweeten foods so that you'll at least get some fiber, water, and nutrients along with sweetness. For instance, add fruit to cereal or yogurt. Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth -- it's much lower in calories than sugar-laden foods. Substituting fruit for candy bars -- even just some of the time -- will save you an enormous number of calories.

Sugar Consumption Tips

Assess Your Sugar
Don't throw out all the sweets in the cupboard at one time! You might have a mutiny on your hands if there are others in your household. Do check the foods you have on hand to assess which items are high in sugar. Dispose of a few first, and replace them with similar, lower-calorie choices. For instance, you might toss chocolate fudge cookies and replace them with fig bars -- so at least some of the sugar you're getting is from fruit.

Keep low-sugar snacks handy. The more healthy alternatives you have ready, the less likely you are to grab sweets on the run. Keep the cupboard and refrigerator stocked with low-sugar choices you've searched out at the supermarket. For instance, graham crackers and unfrosted animal crackers can satisfy a cookie craving with less sugar (and fat, too) than most cookies. Dried fruit can stand in for candy. Unsweetened iced tea can substitute for soda pop.

Keep high-sugar foods out of sight and hard to get to. Store sweets in the back of the cupboard so you can't see them: Out of sight, out of mind! Put sweets in the freezer, making them unavailable for a quick munch.

Keep low-sugar snacks available in the car. Try a mix like this that keeps well in a resealable plastic baggie:

Low-Sugar Cereal Mix

Toss together:
  • 1 cup each of several low-sugar, whole-grain cereals (e.g. Cheerios, Total, Grape-Nuts)

  • Raisins to taste

  • Handful of nuts or sunflower seeds
Other sugar tips to consider:
  • Use sugar from the sugar bowl sparingly. Sometimes adding a very small amount of sugar might make a healthy food palatable so that you'll eat it. For instance, most people don't care for unsweetened oatmeal, which is a great whole-grain food. But if a spoonful of maple syrup or brown sugar makes it acceptable to you, go ahead and use a little. This would be a wise way to use discretionary calories.

  • Eat only half your usual amount of high-sugar foods. Share dessert, put half away, or have a smaller portion to begin with.

  • Drink less sugar-laden pop and other sweetened beverages. Be sure to be a label looker when it comes to the beverage aisle. Many clear beverages with fruit pictured on their labels actually contain as much or more sugar than soda pop. Even "lightly sweetened" teas rival soft drinks in sugar content.

  • Choose unsweetened beverages when you can, or check the "Sugars" portion of the label. Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have only 14 grams of sugar per cup (compared to soda pop's typical 27 grams per cup), and the "light" versions of Gatorade and Powerade have only half that much -- 7 grams of sugar. Sparkling waters with natural flavorings often have no calories.

Setting Sugar Goals

As you set your goal for eating fewer sweets, start gradually or you'll feel deprived. Never forbid yourself a certain food. Eliminating a food from your diet only causes you to want the food more and eventually binge on it. Perhaps begin with goals such as:

  • Starting today, I will drink only one can of soda pop per day rather than my regular two, for five days of the week. (Make sure you have low-calorie alternatives that you like on hand.)

  • This week I will eat dessert after dinner only on Saturday.

As you can see, proper nutrition is a key element to healthy weight loss. Controlling your weight is not a simple matter of starving yourself. For lasting weight loss you need to feel full and energized. If you follow the USDA recommendations for each food group, you'll be well on your way to a healthier you.

©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.

Sugar Guidelines

Sugar does not have its own special stripe on MyPyramid, yet recommendations about sugar consumption are an integral part of the USDA Dietary Guidelines, and their message is carried through in the pyramid.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend eating fewer sweets to reduce calorie intake, ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake, and control weight. Eating a lot of foods with added sugar typically crowds out more nutrient-dense foods, which is detrimental to your health and to your waistline. This article will help you to understand the role that sugar plays in your daily diet.

Sugars: Discretionary Calories

Added sugars, including sugars and syrups added at the table or in food processing or preparation, are empty calories because they have no nutritional value, yet they are loaded with calories. Sugars not naturally present in food are part of your discretionary calorie allowance. You need to carefully consider where to spend those discretionary calories, especially since they also include solid fats and alcohol. If you consume alcohol or higher-fat foods on one day, you'll need to really limit or avoid sweets altogether that day.

On the other hand, if you avoid fats and alcohol, you may have room in your calorie plan to have that favorite sweet treat. It's up to you to balance your discretionary calories. Read labels carefully. Sugar masquerades under many names in the ingredient list. To compare amounts of added sugars, check the "Sugars" portion of the Nutrition Facts panel. Keep in mind that the natural sugar in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) are also listed. These sugars are not much of a concern.

How Much Sugar Should I Eat?

The amount of added sugar listed in the discretionary calorie allowance is a maximum amount of sugar to consume each day. It is your "sugar budget," and you don't want to exceed it. This assumes that your solid fats are kept to the amounts listed in the fat section and you don't drink any alcohol that day. If you do, then you'll need to reduce your intake of added sugars and/or solid fats to keep your calorie scale in balance.

Below is a table that will help you estimate the amount of sugar you should eat each day, according to your calorie intake.

Daily Calorie Level
1,600
1,800
2,000
2,200
Added Sugars, Example
12 grams (3 tsp)
20 grams (5 tsp)
32 grams (8 tsp)
36 grams (9 tsp)


At first glance you may think you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps you don't add a lot of sugar at the table. Unfortunately, many processed foods have sugar added to them. Consider that a single 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of added sugar. An 8-ounce container of fruit-flavored yogurt typically has 7 teaspoons of added sugar, and a tablespoon of ketchup has 1 teaspoon of added sugar in every tablespoon. You can see that it's easy to exceed your sugar allowance unless you're very vigilant.

Benefits of Sugar

Not much for you in sugar -- they don't call it "empty calories" for nothing! Honey has a small amount of nutrients but is still a concentrated sweet. Molasses has a few minerals, but again, it's mostly concentrated sweetness. You'll do better getting your nutrients elsewhere in lower-calorie foods.

Hidden Sugars
What's in your pantry? You may not realize it, but these items are full of added sugar: fruit canned in heavy syrup, boxed or bottled juices that don't say 100 percent fruit juice on the label, and fruit snacks such as roll-ups or leathers that are not 100 percent fruit. Give them all away to someone who is not watching their weight, and be a label looker next time you shop. Get only fruit canned in its own juice or in light syrup, and juices and fruit snacks that are 100 percent fruit. The USDA Dietary Guidelines also recommend avoiding unpasteurized juice to prevent food-borne illness.
Best Bites for Weight Loss

Read the Nutrition Facts panel of foods to select those with the least amount of sugar and calories. Choose unsweetened foods as much as possible, such as unsweetened applesauce. Sugar-free foods, those sweetened with artificial sweeteners, are another choice. Some people prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners, in which case eat smaller amounts of the regular version of the food. Use fruit to sweeten foods so that you'll at least get some fiber, water, and nutrients along with sweetness. For instance, add fruit to cereal or yogurt. Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth -- it's much lower in calories than sugar-laden foods. Substituting fruit for candy bars -- even just some of the time -- will save you an enormous number of calories.

Sugar Consumption Tips

Assess Your Sugar
Don't throw out all the sweets in the cupboard at one time! You might have a mutiny on your hands if there are others in your household. Do check the foods you have on hand to assess which items are high in sugar. Dispose of a few first, and replace them with similar, lower-calorie choices. For instance, you might toss chocolate fudge cookies and replace them with fig bars -- so at least some of the sugar you're getting is from fruit.

Keep low-sugar snacks handy. The more healthy alternatives you have ready, the less likely you are to grab sweets on the run. Keep the cupboard and refrigerator stocked with low-sugar choices you've searched out at the supermarket. For instance, graham crackers and unfrosted animal crackers can satisfy a cookie craving with less sugar (and fat, too) than most cookies. Dried fruit can stand in for candy. Unsweetened iced tea can substitute for soda pop.

Keep high-sugar foods out of sight and hard to get to. Store sweets in the back of the cupboard so you can't see them: Out of sight, out of mind! Put sweets in the freezer, making them unavailable for a quick munch.

Keep low-sugar snacks available in the car. Try a mix like this that keeps well in a resealable plastic baggie:

Low-Sugar Cereal Mix

Toss together:
  • 1 cup each of several low-sugar, whole-grain cereals (e.g. Cheerios, Total, Grape-Nuts)

  • Raisins to taste

  • Handful of nuts or sunflower seeds
Other sugar tips to consider:
  • Use sugar from the sugar bowl sparingly. Sometimes adding a very small amount of sugar might make a healthy food palatable so that you'll eat it. For instance, most people don't care for unsweetened oatmeal, which is a great whole-grain food. But if a spoonful of maple syrup or brown sugar makes it acceptable to you, go ahead and use a little. This would be a wise way to use discretionary calories.

  • Eat only half your usual amount of high-sugar foods. Share dessert, put half away, or have a smaller portion to begin with.

  • Drink less sugar-laden pop and other sweetened beverages. Be sure to be a label looker when it comes to the beverage aisle. Many clear beverages with fruit pictured on their labels actually contain as much or more sugar than soda pop. Even "lightly sweetened" teas rival soft drinks in sugar content.

  • Choose unsweetened beverages when you can, or check the "Sugars" portion of the label. Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have only 14 grams of sugar per cup (compared to soda pop's typical 27 grams per cup), and the "light" versions of Gatorade and Powerade have only half that much -- 7 grams of sugar. Sparkling waters with natural flavorings often have no calories.

Setting Sugar Goals

As you set your goal for eating fewer sweets, start gradually or you'll feel deprived. Never forbid yourself a certain food. Eliminating a food from your diet only causes you to want the food more and eventually binge on it. Perhaps begin with goals such as:

  • Starting today, I will drink only one can of soda pop per day rather than my regular two, for five days of the week. (Make sure you have low-calorie alternatives that you like on hand.)

  • This week I will eat dessert after dinner only on Saturday.

As you can see, proper nutrition is a key element to healthy weight loss. Controlling your weight is not a simple matter of starving yourself. For lasting weight loss you need to feel full and energized. If you follow the USDA recommendations for each food group, you'll be well on your way to a healthier you.

©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.