Thursday, June 25

Healthy diet: End the guesswork with these nutrition guidelines

•        Introduction
You're trying to eat a healthy diet, but you're not sure how to stack up carbohydrates, fats, protein and other nutrients every day. And with the different or even conflicting nutritional advice you may come across, it's no wonder you're uncertain.

Here, based on national guidelines from major health organizations, they outline daily nutritional recommendations designed to help promote health and prevent disease. Use these recommendations to help plan your healthy diet. Keep in mind, though, that if you have high blood pressure, heart disease or other conditions, your recommendations may be different. Check with your doctor about your particular situation.

How long can you safely keep canned food?

Commercially prepared canned food has a fairly long shelf life, as long as it's stored properly. How long you can safely keep canned food depends on the type of food. According to the Department of Agriculture:

•    High-acid foods — such as tomatoes, fruit and fruit juice — can be stored for up to 18 months

•    Low-acid foods — such as vegetables and meat — can be stored for two to five years

When you're shopping for canned food, examine the containers. Don't buy canned products that are dented, leaking or bulging, or those that show any signs of tampering.

At home, store canned food in a cool, dry place. Avoid cabinets over the stove, under the sink, or in a damp basement or garage.

When you're preparing canned food, check the expiration date on the label to be assured of freshness. It's also a good idea to clean the top of the container before you open it. If the container spurts liquid or foam when you open it or the food has a foul odor, don't eat it. Simply throw the container and the food away.

When assessing the fat content of foods, which should I focus on — fat grams, calories or percentages?

All three are intended to help you understand the fat content of foods. However, looking at fat grams is probably the most useful way to monitor how much fat you're getting in your daily diet.

Health experts at the Institute of Medicine recommend that healthy adults get 20 to 35 percent of their total calories from fat. Each gram of fat has 9 calories. So, if you're trying to eat 1,800 calories a day, you should have no more than 70 grams of fat a day — 35 percent of 1,800 calories = 630 calories, divided by 9 (calories per gram of fat) = 70 grams.

Food labels also list calories and calories from fat per serving. So if a food label says 250 calories and 110 fat calories, it means that almost half the food's calories come from fat. That's not necessarily a reason to avoid that food, though. For example, 55 percent of the calories in part-skim mozzarella cheese come from fat, but a 1-ounce serving (28.47 grams) has just 4 grams of fat and 72 total calories.

The percentages you see on food labels are designed to show how much of a specific nutrient a food contains compared with the Daily Value (DV). The DV is based on a 2,000-calorie diet. So, for example, if the label lists 18 percent next to fat it means that the food provides 18 percent of the suggested daily total for fat. You may be eating more or less than 2,000 calories a day, but this percentage can still help you choose foods that are lower in fat.

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