Smart Choices with Oils and Sweets

10.18.2011 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

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Welcome back to the WOW Nutrition Corner with the Redskins team dietition Jane Jakubczak! Don't forget to post any questions you may have for her in the comments section below. Missed Jane's last nutrition post?  Click here.

We are approaching the end zone of our grocery shopping excursion and are now at the top of the food pyramid - Fats and Sweets - perhaps the last and trickiest stop in the store! Oils and Sweets offer both benefits and possible detriments to your health. Here's how to enjoy these foods AND maintain a healthy diet.

So, where to start? You may have heard the USDA has announced a new food guidance system, MyPlate, to replace the MyPyramid system. The graphic and the terminology may be different but the message is still the same: “Fats and Sweets,” now classified as “Oils” and “Empty Calories,” need to be used sparingly. However, both can still play an important role in a healthy diet!

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The “Oils” and “Empty Calories” categories offer both benefits and possible detriments to your health. Practicing smart choices and portion control will allow you to enjoy these foods AND maintain a healthy diet. This blog will help you do both!

- OILS -

Oils refer to liquid fats, which provide important Essential Fatty Acids (EFA). Other foods that offer EFA include nuts, seeds, peanut butter/other nut butters and avocado. However, these foods fall into other food groups because of their nutrient profile.


- Assists in the development and function of the brain and
nervous system.
- Regulate thyroid function, which controls metabolism.
- Act as a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Regulate blood pressure, immune system and liver function.
- Contributes to health of hair, nails and skin.
- Provides satiety to our meals so you will feel satisfied at the end
of your meal and hunger will stay at bay for a longer period of time.


- Contains high levels of calories, leading to weight gain if
consumed in large amounts and frequency.

Smartest Choices

- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Peanut oil

For more on the benefits of essential fatty acids visit To learn more on incorporating healthy oils into a balanced diet visit


“Empty Calories” refer to solid fats (saturated) and added sugar, which provide calories and little or no nutrient value. I call it “fun food” with my clients. These foods are important for overall enjoyment and ensuring a healthy relationship with food.

However, as we all know, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. This is an area of my nutrition counseling where I spend a lot of time discussing portion control and food frequency.


- Provides flavor, texture and overall enjoyment of the eating
- Provides satiety to our meals so you will feel satisfied at the end
of your meal and hunger will stay at bay for a longer period of


- Contains saturated fat, which clogs arteries and may lead to
heart disease.
- Contributes calories to our overall energy equation without
contributing nutrients to our nutritional needs.

Smartest Choices

- Light ice cream or frozen yogurt (add fruit or nuts!).
- Dark chocolate covered dried fruit, such as Raisinettes.
- Cookies, such as Fig Newtons or oatmeal cookies.
- Pudding made with low-fat milk.
- Baked apples with cinnamon.
- Berries or banana dipped in melted dark chocolate.
- Yogurt parfait.
- Low-fat kettle corn.
- Banana or zucchini bread.
- Homemade popsicles made with 100% fruit juice.
- Carmel apples.

You will decrease trans fats, saturated fats and added sugar and increase nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins and minerals by baking your own baked goods from scratch. Avoid falling into the “low fat = healthy” line of thinking though. There are plenty of “low fat” recipes out there that have no nutritional value.

My recommendation is to find recipes that go beyond taking fat out and actually add nutrition! The best dessert recipe sites that do both are sites offering recipes for kids. Some I found helpful include: 
(I love the simplicity of this recipe!) 
(I love the Carrot Cookies recipe!)

So, How Much?

Many of my clients ask, “How much of these fun-foods can I include in my diet and still be healthy?” This answer is very individual and often comes down to the clients weight goals.

1. If your nutritional goals include weight loss, there is less room for fun-foods. We are decreasing total calories and want every calorie to contribute nutrients. However, I believe in working fun-food into the meal plan so you don’t feel deprived (which often will lead to a binge). I discuss with the client what would be a reasonable inclusion of fun-food for them personally to prevent this deprivation reaction. Often times we agree on 1-2 moderately portioned fun-foods a week.

2. For a person with a nutritional goal of maintaining weight, there is more room for empty calories. Again, I discuss with my clients what fun-foods to include and help plan and portion them into an overall balanced diet. According to the USDA, a balanced diet can include 200 – 300 empty calories a day and maintain one’s weight and nutrient needs. You can use these calories daily or add them up and enjoy more fun-foods on the weekend.

To learn more about “Empty Calories” visit,


I hope you learned a few tips to incorporate healthy fats and fun-foods into a balanced diet and reduce the guilt surrounding these categories. I’d love to hear how you plan to include fun-foods and oils into your diet this week and encourage you to share any nutrient-rich dessert recipes or websites you come across! We’d also love to see pictures of you and your kids preparing healthy desserts.

Make it a healthy week!

- Jane

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