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Nutrition Basics

Foods contain three major nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.


Most of the carbohydrates we eat are in the form of starch or sugar and while many try to avoid them when dieting, they are the body’s main energy source. On average, 50% of calories each day should come from carbs. Some common examples are: corn, potatoes, bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, fruit and milk products.  Click on the images below to see an expanded list of your carbohydrate choices. 

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Protein is broken down into amino acids, which are used to repair and replace body tissues. Protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and dried beans. You should select lean meats, chicken (white meat, without skin), low-fat, or fat-fat cheese and beans, and plan for 2-3 servings per day. 

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A small amount of fat in the diet is necessary to maintain good health; however, most of us consume more fat than we need. Too much fat increases your risk for heart disease, and it can also cause weight gain and obesity. Total fat intake should be 25-35% of your total calories each day. 

There are different types of fat, some of which, such as Omega-3 fats, are healthier than others. Common foods with fat include: butter, margarine, oil, whole milk, cheese, fried foods, salad dressings, nuts, bacon, hot dogs, and processed lunch meat.

Saturated Fat

At room temperature, saturated fat is solid, and it is found mostly in animal products. This type of fat raises your risk for heart disease. It can also increase your cholesterol level.  Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat, but you should aim for less than 7%. Foods that are high in saturated fats include: high-fat red meats, bacon, sausage, butter, whole milk, cheese, coconut, and palm oil.

Choosing one of the following saturated fats is equivilant to 0 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fat and 45 calories.

 Butter, reduced-fat  1 Tbsp
 Butter, Stick  1 tsp
 Cream, half and half  2 Tbsp
 Cream, whipped, pressurized  1/4 cup
 Cream cheese, reduced-fat  1½ Tbsp 
 Shortening, solid  1 tsp
 Sour cream, regular  2 Tbsp
 Sour cream, reduced-fat or light             3 Tbsp 


Unsaturated Fat

At room temperature, unsaturated fat is liquid, and it is found in plant products. This type of fat may help lower your blood cholesterol. There are two types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated, which are the good fats. Most of your fat calories for the day should come from these types of fats. Common examples of polyunsaturated fats include corn, safflower, soybean, and sesame oils. Omega-3 fatty acid is also a good fat. It is found in soybean and canola oils, high-fat fish, flax seed, and walnuts. The second type of unsaturated fat that is a good fat is monounsaturated, as they may raise the “good’ cholesterol.  Some examples of monounsaturated fats include canola, olive and peanut oils, as well as avocados, nuts, and fish. 

Choosing one of the following monounsaturated fats is equivalent to 0 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fat and 45 calories.

 Avocado, medium  2 Tbsp 
 Peanut Butter (trans fat-free)  1½ tsp 
 Nuts - almonds, cashews, mixed (50% peanuts)            6 nuts 
 Oil – canola, olive, peanut  1 tsp 
 Olives- black (ripe)  8 large 
 Olives – green, stuffed  10 large 


 Choosing one of the following polyunsaturated fats is equivalent to 0 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fat and 45 calories.

 Margarine, lower-fat spread, (trans fat-free)                 1 Tbsp 
 Margarine, stick, tub (trans fat-free)  1 tsp 
 Mayonnaise, regular  1 tsp 
 Mayonnaise, reduced-fat  1 Tbsp 
 Oil: corn, soybean, safflower  1 tsp 
 Salad dressing, regular  1 Tbsp 
 Salad dressing, reduced-fat  2 Tbsp 


Trans Fat (hydrogenated fat)

This type of fat is made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oils. It raises your cholesterol, even more than saturated fats. You will find it in commercially baked goods, stick margarines, fried food, and other processed foods. 

Example of Daily Fat Grams

 Calories   Total Fat Grams  (30%)   Saturated Fat (less than  10%)   Poly and Mono-Unsaturated  Fats 
 1200   40 g  Less than 13 g  27 g
 1500   50 g  Less than 16 g  34 g
 2000   65 g  Less than 22 g  43 g

Fats: 1 choice = 0 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fat and 45 calories

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Health and Wellness Tip

Laugh every day.  It can release endorphins, the healing hormones, and act as the body’s natural pain killer.  Rent a funny movie or call a friend that makes you laugh.  This can lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system.