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Guilt-Lite On Menu For Dieters Heart Group Guidelines A Bit Easier To Swallow

Associated Press

So you didn’t eat your vegetables yesterday and you really overdid it with the double-chocolate cake. Don’t torture yourself with guilt. Just try to do better in the next few days.

That recommendation comes from the American Heart Association, which has issued reduced-guilt guidelines aimed at getting people to eat right over several days or a week, instead of obsessing over every day or every meal.

The guidelines don’t change the recommended maximum levels of calories, fat and cholesterol in people’s overall diet.

But for the first time, the guidelines cut people a little slack, allowing them to be gluttonous one day, if they eat less the rest of the week.

“This fits the theme of consuming a variety of foods and reducing guilt from eating something ‘bad’ now and then,” said Dr. Ronald Krauss, chairman of a committee that developed the revamped guidelines.

“It’s fairly clear now that the changes we associate with heart disease risk do represent more of a long-term trend rather than changes that occur with any given meal.”

These are the first changes since 1988 in the heart association guidelines, which were first published in 1961.

In the past, the association recommended daily levels for such things as calories and fat, without suggesting that the levels could be a daily average over a week’s time. The change was made to alleviate frustration among people who felt meeting the guidelines every day was unrealistic.

Bernadette Latson, a dietitian at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said the idea of meeting nutritional goals over a week’s time is already advanced by many dietitians.

“Getting an overall balance is what’s really important,” she said.

Robert Ricci, 28, a sales engineer in Dallas, said he figured that out for himself. Ricci usually eats a low-fat, high-fiber diet heavy on foods like raisin bran and baked potatoes.

“If I go to the El Fenix restaurant and get the Wednesday special, which is very good but very bad cheese enchiladas, it’s all right once in a while,” said Ricci, who was eating a fat-free brownie after a chicken sandwich for lunch Monday.

The guidelines, developed by the heart association’s nutrition committee, were published in Monday’s issue of the association’s journal Circulation.

The overall goal remains reducing the risk of heart disease, with a new focus on obesity, whose growing incidence troubles researchers.

Krauss said the public appears to have gotten the message on reducing fat and cholesterol but not the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

A survey taken in January by Louis Harris and Associates indicated that 74 percent of Americans 25 or older are overweight, up from 71 percent a year ago and only 59 percent 10 years ago.

The updated guidelines recommend that people avoid foods high in sugar and limit daily sodium intake to 6 grams, the equivalent of about a teaspoon of table salt.

That’s down from about 1-1/2 teaspoons.

New on the list is the recommendation of 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day from foods, not bottled supplements.

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