Q: What are the dietary guidelines for fat consumption?
A: Fats and oils are part of a healthful diet, but the type of fat makes a difference to heart health, and the total amount of fat consumed also is important.
High intake of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol increases the risk of unhealthy blood lipid levels, which, in turn, may increase the risk of coronary heart disease. A high intake of fat (greater than 35 percent of calories) generally increases saturated fat intake and makes it more difficult to avoid consuming excess calories. A low intake of fats and oils (less than 20 percent of calories) increases the risk of inadequate intakes of vitamin E and of essential fatty acids, and may contribute to unfavorable changes in high-density lipoprotein, blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
Aim to keep total fat between 20 percent to 35 percent of calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. For children 2 to 3 years of age, total fat intake should be slightly higher between 30 to 35 percent of calories. For children and adolescents 4 to 18 years of age, fat intake should equal 25 to 35 percent of calories.
Americans are advised to eat less than 300 mg cholesterol a day, eat as few trans fats as possible and to limit saturated (solid) fat to less than 10 percent of calories. Here are the maximum daily amounts of saturated fat to keep saturated fat below 10 percent of the total calorie intake:
The limit on saturated fat intake should be 18 grams or less for 1,600 calories; 20 grams or less for 2,000 calories; 24 grams or less for 2,200 calories; 25 grams or less for 2,500 calories, and 31 grams or less for 2,800 calories.
Fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils are good sources of healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Cold-water fish (such as salmon, trout and herring) and some nuts and seeds (such as walnuts and flax) also are high in healthful omega 3 fats.
Processed foods and oils provide approximately 80 percent of trans fats in the diet, compared to 20 percent that occur naturally in food from animal sources. Here are the major dietary sources of trans fats:
Cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, bread, etc., 40 percent; animal products, 21 percent, margarine, 17 percent; fried potatoes, 8 percent; potato or corn chips, 5 percent; and household shortening, 4 percent.
A healthy diet includes small amounts of oils. Most adults need just 5 to 7 teaspoons of oils each day. In general, 1 ounce of nuts or seeds or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (these amounts are about the size of a pingpong ball) is equivalent to about 3 teaspoons of oil. One teaspoon of soft-tub or squeeze margarine with no trans fats, or of real mayonnaise, counts as a teaspoon of oil. A tablespoon of some salad dressings counts as 1 teaspoon of oil.
Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, and none have cholesterol. Go light on salad dressings and sauces, which often add fat to vegetable dishes. Limit foods high in cholesterol, such as egg yolks and liver. Check the nutrition label on packaged foods for information on fats and cholesterol.
Choose baked, boiled, broiled, roasted, poached, steamed or grilled foods most or all of the time instead of eating fried foods. Eat few, if any, solid fats (such as butter, cream cheese, stick margarine, shortening and animal fats) or baked goods made with solid fats.
To limit saturated and trans fats when selecting and preparing meat or poultry, choose a lean or low-fat cut (such as 90 percent lean ground beef). Trim visible fat and skin. Keep it lean by draining fat. Eat few, if any, high-fat meats, including marbled and fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb; bacon; 75 percent to 85 percent lean ground beef; and regular sausages such as pepperoni, hot dogs, bologna and salami.
Select low-fat or fat-free most of the time when you consume milk, yogurt and other milk products. If you usually drink whole milk, try reduced-fat milk, then low-fat and then switch to fat-free (skim). Limit cream and whole milk and products such as ice cream and cheeses made with them.
Q: What should the internal temperature of cooked chicken be?
A: Effective April 5, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has reduced the recommended minimum internal temperature for cooked poultry from 180 degrees to 165 degrees to eliminate pathogens and viruses. This recommendation came from the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods after scientific research indicated that foodborne pathogens and viruses, such as salmonella, campylobacter and the avian influenza virus, are destroyed when poultry is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. FSIS recommends using a food thermometer to monitor internal temperature.
In addition to proper cooking temperatures, FSIS reminds consumers to use good food-handling practices at home. Keep hands clean and wash surfaces often; keep raw meats away from ready-to-eat foods; and keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.