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Fats, Oils, and Sweets in a Healthy Diet

At the very top of the Food Guide Pyramid is the tiny triangle of fats and sweets. These foods add calories without contributing much in the way of other nutrients to your diet.

Fats provide important vitamins such as vitamin E, add flavor, and make foods more appealing. Use them sparingly. When you plan carefully, you can make room for these fun foods in your diet. Consider these tips:

  • With the exception of whipped or diet spreads, all butter, margarine, and oils have about 100 calories per tablespoon. Whipped has about 70, and light varieties have 50 to 60.

  • Sugar, syrups (such as pancake and maple), and jelly beans don’t add fat, but that doesn’t mean that they’re free foods. They still have calories.

    One level teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories — surely not enough to ruin your diet, but if you have 3 cups of coffee and a bowl of cereal a day and use 2 teaspoons of sugar in each, that’s a quick 128 calories. If you substituted no-calorie sweeteners for this amount of sugar and made no other changes in the way you ate, you’d lose 1 pound in a month.

  • Keep nuts on your shopping list, because they contain heart-healthy antioxidants and make great snack foods. But buy them in the shell. Opening the shells as you eat will slow you down, so you don’t wolf them by the fistful.

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