About those dietary fats
Salmon, nuts, avocado, flaxseeds, meat cheese and butter – what do these foods have in common?
All are high in fats. But some are better for you than others.
Residents at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens Apartments got a detailed lesson in dietary fats recently, delivered via Zoom, offering a close look for parents looking to serve up the best possible meals for their children.
The hour-long session is part of an ongoing collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Extension Service’s Nutrition Education Program and the Talk/Read/Succeed! early literacy program running at the family housing development located in the Pine Point neighborhood.
SHA Executive Director Denise R. Jordan said the program delivers useful and important information that can have a positive impact on families as they shop, cook and eat.
“We’re very happy to have such a solid connection with the UMass Extension Service, which provides important programs that benefit our families,” Jordan said. “There’s not much more important to our health than eating good foods.”
The dietary fats session was the second of a two workshops delivered electronically. At Robinson Gardens, T/R/S! Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino The program was fully funded through a SNAP-Ed grant, and ties in nicely with the community garden at the development.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the program was brought to residents via a video computer link, with Cimino operating the technology and residents spaced out in the Community Room, wearing protective masks.
“This program aims to help parents make healthy decisions about the food they are buying and cooking,” Cimino said. “It offers simple and inexpensive ways to make the best diet for parents as well as children.”
UMass Extension Service Nutrition Educator Emily Lawler delivered the lesson, sharing information and ideas about including good fats and avoiding bad fats in diet.
“We want parents to see that all fats aren’t bad, and they can limit those as they include good fats on their menus at home,” Lawler said.
Among high-fat foods that are good for you are: Avocados, tofu, macadamia nuts, salmon and other fish, peanut butter, boiled soybeans (edamame), flaxseed oil, dark chocolate, cheddar cheese and eggs.
The bad fats include: fast foods, fried foods, whipped cream, fatty snacks like chips, processed meats, beef short ribs, desserts, creamy salad dressings, animal fat and trans fats (including margarine).
Lawler explained between saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats lack double bonds between the individual carbon atoms, and are usually from animal sources. Unsaturated fats have at least one double bond in the fatty acid chain, and are usually from plant sources.
The current recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is that adults should keep saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of total calorie intake. Also, saturated fats should be replaced with unsaturated fats to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lawler gave specific examples, along with a few recipes, to show how to keep the best diet for family health.
“Meat, cheese and butter have fats that are not so good and can lead to heart disease,” she explained. “More plants and fewer animals are what’s good for you.”
Lawler stressed the need to read labels while shopping and choose the better foods, and to keep daily calorie intake to under 2,000 – fewer if you are physically inactive.
“We want to really pay attention to what’s in our food,” she said. “Stay away from sugars, have more fruits and vegetables. When you eat too many solid fats, that can lead to high cholesterol which are bad for the heart.”
Lawler also shared a healthy, low-fat recipe for a ‘Cool Summer Salsa’ featuring cucumbers, a mandarin orange, tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno peppers, lime, and a tiny bit of olive oil.
Participants included Robinson Gardens resident Ivette Fernandez, who said she is mindful of the nutrition information on foods she buys for her family.
“This gives you a lot of ideas about how to stay healthy, and how to buy foods that are good for you. We get a lot of our vegetables from the garden right here at Robinson Gardens,” she noted.
This year is the fifth year for the community garden at Robinson Gardens, where all residents are welcome to grow, cultivate and harvest. The garden features tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, snow peas, eggplant, corn, Calabaza, collard greens, strawberries and more.
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