Preparing Foods & Planning Menus Using Dietary Guidelines
(posted by Hopkins Technology)

What are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are seven basic principals for developing and maintaining a healthier diet. The Guidelines represent the best thinking in the field of nutrition and health and are the basis for all Federal nutrition information and education programs for healthy Americans. They were developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Dietary Guidelines emphasize balance, variety, and moderation in the overall diet. The seven Guidelines are:

  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Maintain desirable weight
  • Avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber
  • Avoid too much sugar
  • Avoid too much sodium
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has prepared a series of practical "how-to" publications on choosing and preparing foods using the Guidelines. This bulletin focuses on how to prepare foods and plan menus in the Dietary Guidelines style. Other topics in the series include how to shop for food, prepare bag lunches, snacks, and desserts, make "meals in minutes," and eat out using the Dietary Guidelines.



Preparing foods in the Dietary Guidelines style doesn't mean eliminating all fat, sugars(refers to granulated sugar and other sweeteners such as syrups,honey, and molasses), and sodium - it just means avoiding too much. Balance is the key! Balance the foods that tend to be high in fat, sugars, or sodium with other foods that contain less of these components. If you tend to prepare foods that are high in fat, sugars, or sodium, gradually begin to reduce the amounts of these items added to your foods. By using a few simple techniques in you food preparation routine, you can -

  • decrease calories if you need to lose weight;
  • avoid too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol;
  • increase starch and dietary fiber;
  • avoid too much sugar and other sweeteners;
  • avoid too much salt and other sodium-containing ingredients.

If you've decided to cut back on fat, sugars, and sodium in your diet, using less of these items in food preparation is one important way to reach your goal. Before you read on, test yourself.

Take a look at the list below.

Think about how you can reduce the fat, sugars, or sodium content of any of these foods by using another food preparation method. Put an "X" in the "fat" box if the fat content can be reduced with a different preparation method. If the sugars or sodium content can be lowered, put an "X" in those boxes as well. To find out how well your ideas matched the experts' for answers.


Breads, Cereals, and Other Grain Products

Boost the starch and fiber in your meals with breads, cereals, rice, and pasts. From pancakes to pasta, these lowfat foods can be part of Guidelines-style meals - from appetizers to desserts. Vary the taste and texture by choosing among whole-wheat, oatmeal, pumpernickel, rye, and cornmeal products. Here are some ideas for including breads and cereals without overdoing the fat, sugars, or sodium.

Tips For Home Baking

  • Use two egg whites in place of each whole egg in most quick breads, cookies, and cakes. (Yes, this will work in baked goods!)
  • Use lowfat (1 percent or 2 percent) or skim milk.
  • Add a small amount of vanilla, cinnamon, or nutmeg to sweet baked products to enhance flavor when you reduce sugars.
  • Use 3 tablespoons cocoa in place of each ounce of baking chocolate. If fat is needed to replace the fat in chocolate in baked goods, use 1 tablespoon or less of a vegetable oil or a margarine in which the first ingredient on the ingredient label is a liquid oil (as opposed to a hydrogenated fat).

Home Baking Guidelines Style

Sugars and fat affect tenderness and volume of baked products. Sugars also contribute flavor. Balance of ingredients is important. However, you can often use less sugars and fat and still have a good-quality product.


  • Use 1/2 cup sugar per cup of flour in cakes. (Cakes with less sugar may be more like a quick bread than a cake.)
  • Use 1 tablespoon sugar per cup of flour in muffins and quick breads.
  • Use only 1 teaspoon sugar per cup of flour in yeast breads.


  • The minimum amount of fat for muffins, quick breads, and biscuits is 1 to 2 tablespoons per cup of flour.
  • Some yeast breads, such as english muffins and french bread, can be made without any fat.
  • The minimum amount of fat for cakes is 2 tablespoons per cup of flour.
  • Soft drop cookies generally contain less fat than crisp rolled cookies. The fat level can usually be adjusted to 2 tablespoons per cup of flour. Lowering the fat too much in rolled cookies can make a dough that is difficult to roll out.


Sodium is a part of salt and most leavening agents (baking powder and baking soda). You can usually reduce the amount of these ingredients and still have a good quality product. Follow these tips -

  • Use 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup of flour in yeast breads. (In yeast breads, salt helps to control the action of yeast.)
  • Use only half the amount of salt called for in baked products other than yeast breads.
  • Use 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder per cup of flour in biscuits, muffins, or waffles.
  • Use 1 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour in cakes.

Rice and Pasta Pointers

  • Fat and sugars are not necessary ingredients in pasta sauces.
  • Salt and oil are not necessary when cooking pasta, rice, and hot cereals. Try cooking pasta or rice in unsalted broth or unsalted tomato juice.
  • Salt can be reduced or omitted from pasta and rice casseroles when using other ingredients containing salt, such as cheese, canned soup, or canned vegetables. Try some of the flavored pastas available - spinach noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti, for example. Pasta also comes in a variety of shapes that add interest to your recipes. Brown rice gives added texture, fiber, and flavor to many dishes. Try these rice and pasta dishes.
  • Broiled or baked mushroom caps filled with brown rice stuffing (cooked brown rice, onion, celery, and seasonings) as an appetizer.
  • Brown-rice pilaf (a seasoned rice)made with unsalted chicken or beef broth. Check the nutrition label for sodium content of canned broth. Buy the brand lowest in sodium or make your own broth to control the amount of sodium.
  • Macaroni salad made with whole-wheat macaroni for added flavor and fiber.
  • Chilled cooked pasta with pieces of raw vegetables to give extra texture and fiber.



Focus on versatile vegetables - cooked or raw - for a nutritious, colorful, and flavorful addition to Guidelines-style meals and snacks. Vegetables are naturally low in calories, fat, and sodium, and good sources of important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Let the natural flavor of vegetables come through. Use less butter, margarine, salad dressing, honey, salt, and soy sauce to keep down the extra calories, fat, sugars, and sodium.

Tips For Preparing Vegetables

In Cooking...

  • Use a minimum amount of water. Cook vegetables just to the "tender-crisp" stage so they look and taste best and retain more nutrients.
  • Scrub potatoes, cook, and serve unpeeled for more fiber.
  • Add herbs and spices to enhance flavor. Start with 1/8 teaspoon for four servings and then let your taste be your guide.
  • Try cooking starchy vegetables in unsalted broth for added flavor.

In serving...

  • Use plain lowfat yogurt seasoned with herbs or whipped lowfat cottage cheese with a little lemon joice on baked potatoes.
  • Make your own lowfat, low-sodium condiments. For example, try making your own salsa by mixing diced fresh or "no-salt-added" canned tomatoes with diced onions, green peppers, and chilies.
  • Make your own salad dressings. Creamy dressings can be made with plain lowfat yogurt rather than sour cream or mayonnaise.
  • Sprinkle lemon juice and herbs on steamed vegetables.

Did You Know?

Contrary to popular belief, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, green peas, and dry beans, are not high in calories. But calories mount up quickly when vegetables are fried or when sweet or fatty sauces and seasonings are added.

Cooked or canned dry beans and peas are good as vegetables and salads, as well as in main dishes. For example -

  • Combine black beans and rice with chili powder or other peppery seasoning for a Caribbean-style dish.
  • Combine black-eyed peas and rice in a traditional Southern "Hoppin' John."
  • Try a mixture of any of these with a vinegar and oil dressing for a three-or-four-bean salad: green beans, wax beans, green lima beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, or chickpeas (garbanzo beans).
  • Add kidney beans or chickpeas to a lettuce or spinach salad.

Greens Cooked Southern-Style

Do you like greens (turnip, mustard, kale, or collards) cooked with bacon or ham? For less fat, but still the flavor, make meat broth ahead of time and refrigerate to chill. The fat will come to the top and can be easily removed. Use this fat-free broth for cooking greens. (Keep broth no longer than 1 to 2 days in refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze.)

Cooking Methods


Microwaving cooks foods faster than most other methods. You don't need to add fat to meat, poultry, or fish, and you use little water for vegetables. Micro-cooking is an excellent way to retain vitamins and color in vegetables. Follow the manufacturer's directions for best results.


Steaming is a good method for cooking vegetables without using fat. Try this method for frozen and fresh vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, spinach, and summer squash. Use a vegetable steamer or colander to hold vegetables. Place steamer in pot with a little boiling water and cover. Cook until the vegetables are just tender to preserve color and vitamins.


Braising is used mainly for meats that need longer cooking times to become tender. Root vegetables are also good braised. Brown meat first in small amount of oil or its own fat. Then simmer in a covered pan with a little liquid; try using meat or poultry broth, cider, wine, or a combination of these for added flavor.


Roasting foods on a rack or a spit over coals is a fun, lower fat way to prepare meat, poultry, fish, and even vegetables. Barbecuing gives a distinctive smoked flavor to foods. Trim fat from meat to prevent flareup of flames and to reduce calories. If seasoning food with a sauce, try one with less salt, sugars, and fat.


Broiling is a quick way of cooking foods under direct heat without added fat. It's great for poultry, fish, and tender cuts of meat. Use a broiling pan or rack set in a shallow pan to allow fat to drain away. If basting, use lemon juice, fruit juice, or broth for flavor. Vegetables like onions, zucchini, and tomatoes can also be broiled.


Quick and easy, stirfrying requires relatively little fat and preserves the crisp texture and bright color of vegetables. Heat wok or heavy skillet, add just enough oil to lightly coat bottom of pan, add food, and stir constantly while cooking. Start with thin strips or diced portions of meat, poultry, or fish. When meat is almost done, add small pieces of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, or green onions.


Roasting takes somewhat longer than other methods, but requires little work on your part. Poultry and tender cuts of meat may be roasted. Cook in oven, uncovered on a rack in shallow roasting pan to drain fat and allow heat to circulate around meat. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and onions can be baked. Simply wash, prick skins, and place vegetables on a baking sheet in oven.


Foods are cooked in hot liquids in these lowfat, low-salt methods. The liquid left after cooking can become a tasty broth or base of a sauce; chill liquid first and remove any fat that rises to the top. Starchy or root vegetables such as potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, lima beans, and turnips are often boiled.

Tough cuts of meat can be tenderized by simmering in liquid for several hours. (Simmering is a slow boil in which bubbles rise gently to the surface and barely break.) Add vegetables and herbs for an aromatic blend of flavors without salt.

Discovering the Benefits of PLANNING MENUS

Many people would say they don't plan menus - at least they don't write them down in advance. But everyone plans, if only for how to stock the refrigerator.

"Planning menus" means thinking about what foods to eat together for a meal, a day, or a week. Food choices are influenced by habit, by the occasion, by time and food available, and by what you feel like eating, as well as by your concern for nutrition. The information here describes the advantages of menu planning and illustrates how to create menus in the Dietary Guidelines style without sacrificing convenience or taste.

There are many advantages to planning meals, and you don't need to be locked into a rigid schedule. Planning ahead -

  • SAVES TIME AND EFFORT. Needed items will be on hand, which means fewer trips to the grocery store. Planning helps you make good use of leftovers, which can decrease preparation time and food cost.
  • SAVES MONEY. When you go to the store you will know what you need. Then you can compare prices and buy only what you can use without waste. Preplanned quick meals can replace more costly convenience items and restaurant meals at least some of the time.
  • INCREASES VARIETY. You can include the different types of foods you need for nutrients and dietary fiber. You can include new food items, try new styles of preparation occasionally, and vary the colors, textures, flavors, and shapes of foods to make meals attractive and interesting.
  • HELPS AVOID TOO MUCH FAT, SUGARS, AND SODIUM IN YOUR DIET. You can balance your food choices to control your total intake of fat, sugars, and sodium.

Planning For Variety

Variety and balance are the keys to planning menus in the Guidelines style. Each day's menus should include foods from the five major food groups - breads, cereals, and grain products; fruits; vegetables; meats, poultry, fish, and alternates; and milk, cheese, and yogurt. Foods in these groups provide the protein, vitamins, minerals, starch, and dietary fiber you need. Go easy on foods in the sixth food group - fats, sweets, and alcoholic beverages; these mainly supply calories and few vitamins and minerals.

Also vary your choices of foods within each group because specific foods differ in the kinds and amounts of nutrients they provide. For example, include in a week's menu red meats (like beef and pork), poultry, and fish. Pick different breads, fruits, and vegetables as well - especially dark-green leafy vegetables, dry beans and peas, and whole-grain breads and cereals, foods that provide dietary fiber and nutrients that are low in many diets.

The Pattern for Daily Food Choices shows you the types of food to include in your daily menus. How much you serve depends on your own calorie needs and those of your family members.

The pattern suggests ranges of daily servings from most groups - three to five servings of vegetables, for example. To make sure you get the nutrients and fiber you need, plan your menus to include at least the lower number of servings from each food group each day. People with lower calorie needs will need only the lower number of servings. They'll also have to be careful about choosing small portions and lower calorie foods within each group. Young children may not need as much food, so they can have smaller amounts from all groups except milk. Other people will need more food than the lower number of servings to meet their calorie needs. These people can eat larger portions and include additional foods from the first five food groups.

NOTE: Individuals who do not eat one or more of the types of foods listed here may wish to contact a dietitian in their community for help in planning food choices.

DID YOU KNOW? In spite of the trend to increased eating out, surveys show that people get about 70 percent of their calories from foods eaten at home or packed in bag lunches. Keeping nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods on hand for quick meals and snacks can help assure your family a healthful diet.


Nutrient and calorie needs vary from person to person, depending on age, sex, body size, and activity level. But even if your household contains people with different needs, you usually don't have to plan different menus for each person.

First, plan your daily menus to include at least the lower number of servings of foods from each group.. Pick foods from all subgroups regularly. Then, adjust your menus for family members who need different amounts of food:

  • Provide larger or smaller portions of menu items. For example, 1/2 cup cooked rice counts as one serving from the grains group; 1 cup of rice counts as two servings. A young child could have a smaller portion, about 1/4 to 1/3 cup.
  • For those who need more servings, include additional foods in meals or snacks - a piece of fruit, a peanut butter sandwich, crackers and cheese, and so forth.

Here are some other tips for planning for different family members.

  • Toddlers and young children. Serve young children the same variety of foods as everyone else, but in smaller amounts to suit their smaller needs. They should have the equivalent of 2 cups of milk each day, but you can serve it in three or four portions. Because small children often eat only a small amount at one time, offer them nutritious "meal foods" as snacks - milk or fruit juice, cut up fruit, vegetable sticks, strips of cooked meat or poultry, whole-grain crackers and peanut butter, half a sandwich, and so forth. To get enough calories to grow, many young children may need higher calorie foods such as whole milk.
  • Children. Energy needs vary widely for elementary school children. They should eat at least the lower number of servings from each group. If they need more calories, increase the amount of food from the first five groups. Go easy on foods from the fats and sweets group.
  • Teenagers. All teenagers need three servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt to meet their calcium needs.

    Teenage boys often need a lot of food. They can eat the higher number of servings from each food group. (With a moderate amount of fat and sugars, this supplies about 2,800 to 3,200 calories.) Some very active boys need even more. Encourage them to eat more foods from each of the first five food groups and to go easy on the sixth food group - foods high in fat and sugars.

    Teenage girls usually need more food than the lower number of servings, especially when they are active or growing rapidly. They should increase their servings from the first five food groups. Teenage girls who are active participants in vigorous sports may need the higher number of servings or more. Encourage physical activity rather than repeated dieting to help control weight.

  • Adults of all ages. Adults should have at least the lower number of servings from each food group. With a moderate amount of fat and sugars, this number of servings provides about 1,600 calories -about the right amount for a sedentary woman and some older adults. However, most adults will need more calories than this, depending on body size and physical activity. Most men can have the middle to upper number of servings in the ranges. The lower to middle numbers of servings in the ranges are more appropriate for most women.

    Regular exercise is important to maintain fitness. It also allows you to eat more food to supply the nutrients you need without gaining unwanted weight. Total food intake is most important in weight control, but increasing physical activity helps.

  • People with special needs. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to include at least three servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese to meet calcium needs. (Teenagers who are pregnant or breastfeeding should have four servings.) They should eat more breads and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and meat and meat alternates, too. To meet higher needs for many vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, many physicians also prescribe a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

    Toddlers, teenage girls, and women of childbearing age may not get all the iron they need from the amounts of food they eat. Be sure to include good sources of iron such as lean red meats, dry beans and peas, dark-green leafy vegetables, whole-grain and enriched breads, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. Meat and the vitamin C in fruits and vegetables can help the body use the iron in iron-containing foods eaten at the same meal.

  • Older people vary in their dietary needs. Many can eat like younger adults. Some elderly people eat relatively little food. They need to eat foods from each of the first five food groups, but they should eat less of foods in the sixth group - fats and oils, sugars and sweets, and alcoholic beverages.

    Elderly people or others in the household who are on medication for treatment of chronic conditions may have vitamin and mineral supplements or special diets prescribed by their physicians. A dietician can help you adjust your family menus to meet special dietary needs of these individuals.

Looking Out For Extras

Most people like to add extras like jam, butter, margarine, or salad dressings to their food at the table. Many enjoy desserts, sweet or salty snacks, or an occasional glass of beer or wine. But these foods can quickly add up to too much fat, sugars, sodium, and alcohol. To fit these foods into your menus -

  • Pay attention to the amount of spreads and dressings you use. Go lightly.
  • Choose lowfat, low-sodium dressings or make your own lowfat, low-sodium versions.
  • Look for unsalted pretzels, chips, and crackers and low-sodium cheeses.

Try dessert and snack recipes that are lower in fat, sugars, and sodium. Milk and grain-based desserts and snacks, such as ice cream and cookies, can provide some important nutrients. Balance the extra fat and sugars in these treats by cutting back on fat and sugars elsewhere in your menu.

  • Remember, an alcoholic beverage provides calories but few vitamins and minerals. It should be considered an "extra" like fats or sugary foods. If you include beer, wine, or other alcoholic drinks in your menu, balance the calories they add by having less fat and fewer sugars that day.

Focusing On Fiber

Fiber is important in the diet to help keep the digestive tract healthy. Good sources of fiber include whole-grain breads and cereals, dry beans and peas, and fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible peels and seeds (such as berries, cucumbers, and summer squash). Menus that contain the amounts of these foods suggested in the Pattern for Daily Food Choices will provide a good supply of dietary fiber. There is no reason to take fiber supplements or to add fiber to foods that do not already contain it.

Getting The Most From Dry Beans and Peas

Dry beans and peas fit two food groups! Because they are high in protein and high in many of the vitamins and minerals provided by meats, they serve as meat alternates. But like starchy vegetables, dry beans and peas are higher in carbohydrates and fiber and low in fat. These versatile vegetables are good in salads, soups, side dishes, even dips for snacks. You can cook them yourself or buy them already cooked and canned. Try kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, chick-peas, split peas, lentils, and so forth. Look for ways to frequently include these and other dry beans and peas -as vegetables or meat alternates - in your menus.

Did You Know? Snacking is increasing. In a recent USDA survey of what food people ate for 1 day, 75 percent of women reported snacking, up from 60 percent in 1977. It's a good idea to plan snacks for everyone - snacks that taste good and are good for you.


A healthful diet is moderate in fat, sugars, and sodium. But moderation does not mean no-fat, no-sugar, no-sodium, no-fun meals! The point is to avoid too much fat, sugars, and sodium in your TOTAL DIET, not in a single food item or in a single meal. With a little planning, any food can fit into a moderate, healthful diet!


Fat is the most concentrated source of food energy (calories). Each gram of fat supplies about 9 calories, compared with about 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrates and 7 calories per gram of alcohol. In addition to providing energy, fat aids in the absorption of certain vitamins. Some fats provide linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid which is needed by everyone in small amounts.

Eating a diet high in fat - especially saturated fatty acids and cholesterol - causes elevated blood cholesterol levels in many people, increasing their risk of heart disease. Most nutrition authorities recommend that the U.S. population as a whole reduce daily consumption of fat. Americans eat about 37 percent of total calories as fat. Many authorities have suggested it is best to limit fat to no more than 30 to 35 percent of total calories.

The amount of fat that can be included in your daily menus depends on the calorie level. For reference, the table below shows the amounts of fat that represent 30 to 35 percent of calories in diets at different calorie levels.

     In A Diet With          The Grams of Fat Shown Provide

Daily Calories of- 30% to 35% of Calories (Grams)

1,500 50-58 2,000 67-78 2,500 83-97 3,000 100-117


"Sugar" means more than just the familiar white table sugar. In the Dietary Guidelines, sugar refers to all caloric sweeterners - table sugar, brown sugar, corn sweeteners, syrups, honey, molasses - that are added to foods. These sugars provide mainly calories with few vitamins and minerals, and people who need fewer calories should be especially careful to avoid too much. Sugars also occur naturally in fruits, vegetables, and milk - foods that are important sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Remember though, all types of sugars, both natural and refined, can promote tooth decay, especially if eaten frequently or in sticky forms that stay on the teeth.

Sugars are added to foods both in processing and at the table. Because "added" sugars provide calories but few nutrients, the amount of added sugars that might be included in your menus depends on calorie level. For example, the 1,600 calorie menus [to follow later in the text - to be added by scanner] provide an average of 9 teaspoons of added sugars, whereas the 2,500 calories menus provide an average of 18 teaspoons.

Artificial sweeteners are commonly used in some products to provide sweetness without unwanted calories. Their safety is continuously under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is not necessary to use artificial sweeteners to avoid too much sugar in your diet.


Sodium is a mineral required to maintain body fluids and proper nerve functioning. However, most Americans consume more sodium than they need. In some people, excessive intakes of sodium contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that a "safe and adequate" range of sodium per day is about 1,100 to 3,300 milligrams for adults. Most sodium in the American diet comes from table salt (sodium chloride) that is added to foods in processing, preparation, or at the table. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,000 milligrams of sodium.

Planning For Moderation

It's not necessary to count grams and milligrams to avoid too much fat, sugars, or sodium. To plan menus that are moderate in these:

  • Emphasize foods from each food group that are lower in fat, sugars, and sodium. Foods within each food group vary in the amounts of fat, sugars, and sodium they contain.
  • Go easy on fat, sugars, and sodium you add at home. For example, bake rather than deep-fat-fry chicken or fish. Cook beef, pork, or chicken in an herb-seasoned tomato sauce rather than a sweet barbecue sauce.
  • Balance your food choices. When you plan to have a food that is relatively high in fat, sugars, or sodium, plan other food items that are lower in the same thing to go with it. For example, when you serve ham for dinner, serve a fresh or frozen vegetable prepared without salt and serve lower sodium foods for other meals that day. If you or your family prefer whole milk to lowfat or skim milk, cut the fat elsewhere in your meals - try lowfat salad dressings or use less butter or margarine.

A Quick Look...At Fat, Sodium, and Added Sugars In Foods (Values are averages for typical foods in each category. Individual products vary)

  • Compare foods within food groups. It's important to include all the five major food groups in your menus - try to include the food items that are lower in fat, sodium, or added sugars more often.
  • Look for ways to balance your higher fat, sodium, or sugar choices with foods that have little or none of these.
  • Consider portion size.
  • Watch out for choices that lower the amount of one constituent but raise another. For example, substituting a lean cured meat for spareribs may reduce fat but raise sodium. Balance all choices to moderate fat, sodium, and sugars in your menus.
  • Consider how you will prepare the food. Frying increases the fat in your meal. Adding salt to pastas, hot cereals, or fresh or frozen vegetables during cooking increases sodium. You can add less fat and salt than package directions suggest and still have a good-tasting dish.
  • Read product labels for specific information on fat, sodium, and sugars. At the store look for products with lower fat, reduced sodium, or reduced amounts of added sugars.


Fatty acids are the basic chemical units in fat. They may be either Saturated, Monounsaturated, or Polyunsaturated. These fatty acids differ in the amount of hydrogen they contain. Saturated fatty acids contain the most hydrogen and polyunsaturated the least. Saturated fatty acids tend to raise the blood cholesterol level in many people. Thus some health authorities suggest limiting intake of saturated fatty acids to about a third of total fat.

All dietary fats are made up of mixtures of these three types of fatty acids.

CHOLESTEROL is a fat-like substance found in all foods of animal origin: egg yolks, meat, poultry, fish, milk, and milk products. It is not found in foods of plant origin. Both the lean and fat of meat and the meat and skin of poultry contain cholesterol. In milk products, cholesterol is mostly in the fat, so lower fat products contain less cholesterol. Egg yolk and organ meats are the main sources of cholesterol in most diets - one egg yolk contains about 10 times as much cholesterol as one ounce of meat, poultry, or fish.

Tips for Moderating Saturated Fat and Cholesterol

Eating too much saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as excess calories, raises blood cholesterol levels in many people.

High blood cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease. If you or a family member have a high blood cholesterol level, you will need to pay special attention to the saturated fat and cholesterol in the foods you eat. Follow your doctor's or dietitian's advice. For others, here are some general guides to moderating saturated fat and cholesterol in your meals.

  • Use lean meats, lowfat daily products, and only small amounts of added fats. This reduces both total fat and saturated fats.
  • Use unsaturated vegetable oils and margarines made with liquid vegetable oils for spreads and dressings and in baking when possible.
  • Limit use of products that contain large amounts of saturated fats, especially if the total amount of fat is high - for example, nondairy creamers and rich baked products such as pie crust and other pastries, rich cakes, and cookies. Read nutrition and ingredient labels on food packages to identify total amount of fat and sources of saturated fatty acids.
  • Think about the balance of fats in your menu. If your menu contains whole milk, cheese, ice cream, a higher fat meat, or poultry with skin, use margarine and unsaturated vegetable oils for your spreads and dressings. Small amounts of butter, sour cream, or cream cheese can be included if other menu items are low in saturated fat.
  • Use only three egg yolks per person per week - including those in egg dishes and other foods with egg as an ingredient, such as custards and quick breads. Add extra egg whites to make larger servings of egg dishes such as scrambled eggs, or substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in most baked products.


Saving Money

Plan ahead to help control food costs:

  • Consider supermarket specials and seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy only the amount of food you need or can store properly. Large quantity purchases generally cost less per unit and save trips to the store. They are good buys if you can use them before they spoil. Use leftovers promptly, or freeze them for later use.
  • Make effective use of your appliances. Save energy by using your oven to cook several foods at the same time.
  • Do it yourself when you can. You generally pay more for the convenience of eating out and for pre-prepared foods and mixes. You can save money by making some of these items yourself. You can also control the amounts of fat, sugars, and sodium you add - a valuable plus!

Saving Time

The time you have to prepare a meal is a major factor in deciding what foods to serve. Consider these time-saving ideas:

  • Food selection for shorter preparation and cooking time. Fish, stirfry mixtures, and most vegetables cook quickly. Roasts, stews, and casseroles take longer. Consider how long it will take to prepare ingredients for cooking (for example, chopping vegetables for a stirfry), as well as actual cooking time.

    "Planned leftovers" - portions of roast meats and poultry prepared for previous meals - can be quickly served in new ways. For example, roast pork can be used in pork chop suey later in the week.

    New recipes and food preparation methods often take longer the first time you try them. Try only one new item at a time.

  • Time-Saving Equipment. Food processors, slow cookers, mixers, blenders, and microwave ovens can save a lot of time. If you have enough freezer space, you can also cook foods ahead and store them.
  • Helpful People. An older child or other adult at home can start a meal by putting a casserole or a roast in the oven. Many family members can make their own snacks and quick meals from a variety of nutritious foods on hand.
  • Eating Out. Sometimes eating out or bringing home a "carry-out" meal, entree, or other part of a meal is the best solution to a time crunch. Make sure you balance all your food choices - at home and away - to keep fat, sodium, and sugar levels moderate.

Planning For Taste

Food habits develop over a long period of time and can be hard to change. Menus in the Dietary Guidelines style may include a greater variety of foods and less fat, sugars, and sodium than you are used to. Plan menus that will help you and your family adjust:

  • Gradually introduce new foods. Find out how to prepare unfamiliar foods to make them as attractive and tasty as possible.

  • Cut your use of salt gradually, and use fewer salty foods.

  • Try switching from whole milk to low-fat milk, and then perhaps to skim milk.

  • Consider the characteristics of particular foods your family likes. Do they like creamy salad dressing, crisp snacks, chewey cookies? Find some acceptable substitutes with less fat, sugars, or sodium. For example, try a fruit muffin instead of a cupcake, a yogurt dressing instead of mayonnaise, and a snack mix made from whole-grain cereals instead of chips.

  • Be adventurous. Try new ideas from this bulletin, or invent your own food combinations using the concepts described here. You'll find lots of ideas that will work for you.


If you write out your menus, select several to help you answer the questions below. If you don't, write down some typical menus for your family. Include foods you eat out. Then answer the following questions:

1. Does a day's menu provide at least the lower number of servings from each of the major food groups shown below:

6 servings of grain products? Yes No
2 servings of fruit? Yes No
3 servings of vegetables? Yes No
2-3 servings of lean meat or the
equivalent? (totaling 5 oz/day) Yes No
2 servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese Yes No

2. Do the menus have several servings of whole-grain breads or cereals each day? Yes No

3. Do menus for a week include several servings of:

Dark-Green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce)? Yes No
Dry Beans or peas (kidney beans split peas, lentils)? Yes No

4. Do menus include some vegetables and fruits with skins and seeds (baked potatoes with skin, summer squash, berries, apples, or pears with peels)? Yes No

5. Underline all of the foods in your menus that are high in fat, sugars, or sodium.

Are other foods that are served with them lower in fat, sugars, or sodium, so that total intake is moderate? Yes No

Are other meals on the same day lower in fat, sugars, or sodium, so that total intake is moderate? Yes No

6. Are the menus practical for you in time, cost, and family acceptance? Yes No

Tips For Easy Menu Planning

  • Be flexible. Anyone's schedule can change at the last minute. If you're running late, switch dinner to a "quick meal" you had planned for another day.

  • Write down favorite food combinations for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners - meals you can "mix and match" for daily menus. Include foods that you usually have on hand.

  • Note some appropriate substitute foods for side dishes - foods that have about the same nutrient, fat, sugars, and sodium content, so you have something to use if the price is too high or the store is out of what you have in mind. For example, winter squash may work as well as sweet potatoes for your menu.

  • Take advantage of "planned leftovers." They cut preparation time and save food dollars.

  • Create fun and variety by including a new or unusual food occasionally, along with old favorites. Don't plan too many new foods at once - leave time and attention to focus on the new food.

  • Plan menus ahead for holiday meals and "company dinners," complete with shopping lists. Try lower fat, sodium, and sugar versions of some traditional dishes. Practice any new recipes and preparation methods ahead of time so you"ll be free to put your energy into enjoying the occasion.

  • Keep in mind that no system is perfect! No one set of menus can satisy everyone, nor can you always eat exactly as planned. It's what you do over the long run - day-to-tay, week-to-week - that adds up to good nutritional health.

Planning Meals For One Person

A little planning can go a long way toward making meals for one person nutritious and interesting. Try some of these ideas to make meals for one fun and easy:

  • Cook once and eat twice - or even three times. Cook a small roast; eat one portion now and freeze additional portions to mix with vegetables for quick soups, stews, or chili.

  • Buy frozen vegetables in 1-pound bags, cook what you need for single servings, or mix several for an interesting vegetable medley.

  • Buy several kinds of pasts to keep on hand. Many cook quickly. Pasta makes an attractive side dish, or it can be used as a base for stews, or topped with sauce. Make single servings or cook extra to add to soups or casseroles. Mix with vegetables and a low fat dressing for pasta salad.

  • Share a meal with a friend. You could each contribute part of the meal, or perhaps trade portions of planned-leftover main dishes.

  • Explore your grocery store for the makings of a fresh "convenience" meal. Try a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit from the salad bar, a fresh whole-grain roll from the bakery, and a slice or two of lean meat from the deli. Round it out with a half-pint of milk, or perhaps some plain yogurt to mix with the fruit for dessert.


Low in fat and sodium and high in certain vitamins and minerals, fruits fit right into the Guidelines style. Naturally sweet, they make especially satisfying desserts and snacks. Or, take advantage of their great variety in flavor, color, and texture to perk up vegetables and salads and to flavor or garnish simply prepared meats and poultry.

See also FRUIT - Something Good That's Not Illegal, Immoral or Fattening.

Tips On Using Fruits

  • Have fresh fruits available for snacking.

  • Use your imagination. Try different fruits when you prepare muffins, pancakes, or quick breads. Dried apricots, raisins, bananas, blueberries, or apples add extra fiber and variety in flavor.

  • Use a lightly sweetened fruit sauce in place of frosting on cake.

  • Squeeze a lime or lemon wedge over a fruit salad in place of salad dressing.

  • For a dessert, alternate layers of fresh fruit with plain lowfat yogurt in a parfait glass. Sprinkle top with cinnamon.

  • For extra fiber, choose whole fruit in place of juice.

  • For an unusual appetizer, try a fruit soup - hot or cold.

  • Bake or broil fruits for dessert, garnish, or appetizer. Try baked pears or bananas, as well as apples, or a broiled peach or grapefruit half. Enhance the flavor with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg.

For a fun dessert, put a whole ripe banana on a cookie sheet (leave the peel on) and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Split baked fruit with knife; sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Did You Know? Calories add up when sugar or syrup is used with fruit. For example, a half-cup serving of fresh unsweetened peaches contains only 36 calories, while a half-cup of peaches canned in heavy syrup contains 95 calories, and a half-cup of frozen sweetened peaches contains 118 calories.

Serve plain lowfat yogurt, garnished with lime "twists" as an elegant dressing for fruit salad.

Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt

Keeping Calcium With Less Fat

Get the calcium you need by including milk, cheese, and yogurt in your diet. These products are found in many forms, many of which have less calories, fat, sugars, and sodium. Here are tips on how to use these foods in Guidelines-style meals.

Tips for using Milk, Cheese, and Yogurt

For milk..

  • Use skim or lowfat milk in soups, puddings, baked products, or sauces for casseroles.

  • Substitute evaporated skim milk in recipes calling for regular evaporated milk.

  • Try undiluted evaporated milk as a substitute for cream.

For cheese and yogurt...

  • Use plain lowfat yogurt or whipped cottage cheese as a substitute for sour cream in dips or salad dressings.

  • Drain plain lowfat yogurt in a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Season the drained yogurt with herbs and use as a spread in place of cream cheese.

  • Substitute plain lowfat yogurt for some of the salad dressing or mayonnaise in recipes.

  • For dessert, top ice milk or frozen lowfat yogurt with an unsweetened or lightly sweetened fruit sauce.

  • Add unsweetened fruit to plain yogurt for a dessert or snack.

  • Try lower fat cheeses, such as part-skim ricotta or mozzarella or lowfat process cheeses (check label).

  • Use cheeses lower in sodium. Natural cheeses vary widely in sodium, but generally contain less than process cheeses, cheese foods, and cheese spreads. "low-sodium" cheese is also available.

  • When cooking with cheese, you can usually reduce or omit salt in recipes.

  • Add cheese last so that it does not become tough and stringy during cooking.

Did You Know? Sauces add flavor and moisture to a variety of foods such as casseroles. A tablespoon of a typical medium white sauce made with whole milk provides about 25 calories and about 2 grams of fat. To cut fat in a tablespoon of sauce to about 1 gram and the calories to about 15, use skim instead of whole milk, and use only 1 tablespoon margarine for each 2 tablespoons flour.

Meat, Poultry, Fish, and More...LIGHTENING UP THE MAIN COURSE

Meat, poultry, and fish are traditional American favorites - and important sources of essential minerals such as iron and zinc, as well as protein. Dry beans and peas, nuts, and eggs provide many of the same nutrients and can be used in place of meat occasionally. Here are suggestions on how to get these important nutrients with less calories, fat, and sodium.

Did You Know?

  • Taking the skin off a half breast of roasted chicken reduces fat from 8 grams to 3 grams and calories from about 195 to 140.

  • Cutting the fat off a 3-ounce piece of broiled sirloin steak lowers fat from 15 grams to 6 grams and calories from 240 to 150.

A Flavor Tip

A marinade enhances flavor and increases tenderness of meat and poultry. To marinate, let food stand in a seasoned liquid in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Use a marinade that contains little or no oil or sugar, and reduce salt if salt is an ingredient. For a start, try marinating a pound of round steak in a mixture of 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar and 1/4 cup orange juice seasoned with 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 cup sliced onion. You can also use the remaining marinade to baste the round steak as it cooks. Discard marinade after use. Do not save to use another time. Marinades in which uncooked meat has stood can spoil quickly.

Tips for Preparing Meat, Poultry, Fish, and Alternates

Before cooking...

  • Trim visible fat.

  • Remove skin from poultry.

  • If you salt uncooked meat, add no more than 1/4 teaspoon per pound.

  • Prepare meat, poultry, or fish without breading or batter. Coatings absorb fat.

In cooking...

  • Brown ground meats without added fat. Drain off fat before mixing in other ingredients.

  • Place meat on a rack when roasting, broiling, or braising so that fat can drain away from the meat.

  • Cook with little or no added fat, using nonstick pans.

  • Baste with unsalted broth, unsalted tomato juice, or fruit juice rather than with fatty drippings.

  • If using ham or other cured meat in a recipe, omit salt and avoid using other ingredients high in sodium.

  • Use onion and garlic powder rather than onion salt, garlic salt, or other seasoned salts.

  • Season meats with herbs and spices or blends of herbs and spices, such as "italian seasoning." Read the label and avoid those having salt as a major ingredient.

  • Use commercially prepared sauces, such as barbecue sauce, sparingly. These are often high in sugars, sodium, or both.

  • Use less of high-sodium condiments, such as soy sauce, dill pickles, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

  • Reduce or omit salt when using salted processed foods such as canned vegetables or soups in recipes. Or, try "no-salt-added" canned vegetables.

In preparing sauces and toppings...

  • Chill drippings and broth and remove fat before making gravies, soups, and sauces. To avoid lumps, mix thickener (flour or cornstarch) with cold liquid ingredients (unsalted broth, water, fruit juice) before heating.

  • Be moderate in use of high-fat crumb toppings for casseroles.

Trying alternatives...

  • Extend meat, poultry, or fish in main dishes and casseroles by combining them with pasta, rice, other grains, or vegetables.

  • Use only one egg yolk per serving in egg dishes. Make larger servings by adding extra egg whites, as in scrambled eggs.

  • Occasionally try dishes made with cooked dry beans or peas in place of meat, poultry, or fish.


Beef and Vegatable Stirfry - 4 servings, about 3/4 cup each

Per serving:
Calories 150
Total Fat 5 grams
Saturated Fatty Acids 1 gram
Cholesterol 44 milligrams
Sodium 317 milligrams

Beef round steak, boneless 3/4 pound (12 ounces)
Oil l teaspoon
Carrots, sliced 1/2 cup
Celery, sliced 1/2 cup
Onion, sliced 1/2 cup
Soy sauce 1 tablespoon
Garlic powder 1/8 teaspoon
Pepper Dash
Zucchini squash, cut in thin strips 2 cups
Cornstarch 1 tablespoon
Water 1/4 Cup

1. Trim all fat from steak. Slice steak across the grain into thin strips about 1/8 inch wide and 3 inches long. (Partially frozen meat is easier to slice.)

2. Heat oil in frypan. Add beef strips and stirfry over high heat, turning pieces constantly, until beef is no longer red - about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce heat.

3. Add carrots, celery, onion, and seasonings. Cover and cook until carrots are slightly tender - 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Add squash; cook until vegetables are tender-crisp - 3 to 4 minutes.

5. Mix cornstarch and water until smooth. Add slowly to beef mixture, stirring constantly.

6. Cook until thickened and vegetables are coated with a thin glaze.

Variation: Chicken and Vegetable Stirfry

Per serving:
Calories 140
Total fat 2 grams
Saturated fatty acids Trace
Cholesterol 51 milligrams
Sodium 335 milligrams

Use 3 chicken breast halves without bone or skin (about 12 ounces or raw chicken) in place of beef. Slice into thin strips. Chicken should be cooked until thoroughly done or no longer pink in color.

Enchilada Casserole - 4 pieces, 4 by 4 inches each

Per serving:
Calories 300
Total fat 7 grams
Saturated fatty acids 2 grams
Cholesterol 35 milligrams
Sodium 378 milligrams


Onion, chopped 1/2 cup
Green pepper, chopped 1/2 cup
Celery, chopped 1/4 cup
Water, boiling 1/4 cup
Chicken, cooked, diced 1 cup
Canned pinto beans, drained 1 cup
No-salt-added tomato puree 1/2 cup
Corn tortillas 8


No-Salt-Added tomato puree 1 1/2 cups
Water 3/4 cup
Chili powder 1 tablespoon
Ground cumin 1/8 teaspoon
Garlic powder 1/8 teaspoon
Salt (See Note) 1/8 teaspoon

Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 1/4 cup

1. Preheat oven to 350F (moderate)

2. Cook onion, green pepper, and celery in boiling water until tender. Drain liquid if necessary.

3. Add chicken, beans, and 1/2 cup of tomato puree. Mix gently.

4. Mix all sauce ingredients together thoroughly.

5. In an 8- by 8- by 2-inch baking pan, place four tortillas, one-half of the filling mixture, and one-fourth of the sauce. Add remaining filling mixture and another one-fourth of the sauce. Cover with four tortillas and remaining sauce.

6. Sprinkle cheese over top.

7. Bake until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly - about 30 minutes.

NOTE: Cheese, corn tortillas, and canned beans contain salt, so no salt is added to the filling and only a little to the sauce.

Apple-Grape Salad - 4 servings, about 1/2 cup each

Per serving:
Calories 80
Total fat Trace
Saturated fatty acids Trace
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 11 milligrams

Unflavored gelatin l envelope (about 1 tablespoon)
Water 1/4 cup
Apple Juice 1 1/2 cups
Apple, unpared, diced 1 cup
Red grapes, halved, seeded 1/2 cup
Celery, chopped 1/4 cup

1. Soften gelatin in water for 5 minutes. Heat gelatin over low heat, stirring constantly, until dissolved.

2. Add apple juice. Chill until mixture begins to thicken.

3. Stir in fruit and celery

4. Pour in fruit and celery

5. Chill until set

Stuffed Baked Potato - 4 servings, 1 potato each

Per serving:
Calories 155
Total fat Trace
Saturated fatty acids Trace
Cholesterol 1 milligram
Sodium 128 milligrams

Baking potatoes, about 1/2 pound each 4
Lowfat cottage cheese (See Notes) 1/2 cup
Skim milk 3 tablespoons
Dried chopped chives (See Notes) 1 teaspoon
Pepper 1/8 teaspoon
Paprika As desired

1. Preheat oven to 425F (hot)

2. Wash and dry potatoes. Prick skins with a fork. Bake potatoes until tender - 50 to 60 minutes. (Potatoes may be baked in a microwave oven. Use the directions that came with your oven.)

3. Beat cottage cheese until smooth.

4. Slice tops off potatoes; scoop out insides of potatoes and add to cottage cheese. Add milk and seasonings; beat until well blended.

5. Stuff potato skins with potato-cheese mixture. Sprinkle with paprika.

6. Return potatoes to oven. Bake about 10 minutes or until heated and tops are lightly browned.

NOTES: Since cottage cheese contains salt, there's no need to add more salt to the recipe.

Fresh chives may be used in place of dried chives.

Broiled Sesame Fish - 4 servings, about 2 1/2 ounces each

Per serving:
Calories 110
Total fat 3 grams
Saturated fatty acids Trace
Cholesterol 46 milligrams
Sodium 155 milligrams

Cod fillets, fresh or frozen 1 pound
Margarine, melted 1 teaspoon
Lemon juice 1 tablespoon
Dried tarragon leaves 1 teaspoon
Salt 1/8 teaspoon
Pepper Dash
Sesame seeds 1 tablespoon
Parsley, chopped 1 tablespoon

1. Thaw frozen fish in refrigerator overnight or defrost briefly in a microwave oven. Cut fish into 4 portions.

2. Place fish on a broiler pan lined with aluminum foil. Brush margarine over fish.

3. Mix lemon juice, tarragon leaves, salt, and pepper. Pour over fish.

4. Sprinkle sesame seeds evenly over fish.

5. Broil until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork - about 12 minutes.

6. Garnish each serving with parsley.

Rice-Pasta Pilaf - 4 servings, about 1/2 cup each

Per serving:
Calories 135
Total fat 4 grams
Saturated fatty acids 1 gram
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 177 milligrams

Uncooked brown rice 1/3 cup
Chicken broth, unsalted 1 1/2 cup
Thin spaghetti, broken into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces 1/3 cup
Margarine 2 teaspoons
Green onions, chopped 2 tablespoons
Green pepper, chopped 2 tablespoons
Fresh mushrooms, chopped 2 tablespoons
Garlic, minced 1/2 clove
Savory 1/2 teaspoon
Salt 1/4 teaspoon
Pepper 1/8 teaspoon
Slivered almonds, toasted, if desired (See Notes) 1 tablespoon

1. Cook rice in 1 cup of the broth in a covered saucepan until almost tender - about 35 minutes.

2. Cook spaghetti in margarine over low heat until golden brown - about 2 minutes. Stir frequently; watch carefully.

3. Add browned spaghetti, vegetables, remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth, and seasonings to rice.

4. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook over medium heat until liquid is absorbed - about 10 minutes.

5. Remove from heat; let stand 2 minutes.

6. Garnish with almonds.

NOTES: Toast almonds in 350F (Moderate) oven until lightly browned - 5 to 12 minutes. Or, toast in heavy pan over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

If served without almonds, the pilaf has 125 calories and 3 grams total fat per serving.

How I lose 4 pounds a month and eat anything I like.