Americans overdo it. Our diet is too high in sugar, salt, fat, cholesterol and alcohol. Recent federal guidelines urge us to cut down. But changing lifetime eating habits isn't easy.
To help, here are 25 ways you can make your diet a healthier one: TO REDUCE SUGAR
1. For a naturally sweet dessert, make applesauce without sugar, using unsweetened apple juice instead of water. For 4 medium cooking apples, use 1 cup of juice along with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.
2. To sweeten cereal, use 1/2 grated, peeled apple instead of sugar for one portion.
3. In place of jams and jellies, use pure'ed baby fruit in jars. Some do not contain added sugar.
4. As an alternative to soft drinks, try chilled herbal teas, mineral water or half mineral water and half fruit juice.
5. Rather than buying sweetened fruit punch, make your own by mixing unsweetened apple, orange and grape juice in equal parts. TO REDUCE SALT
6. Make zesty low-sodium bread crumbs at home: To 1 cup of finely crushed matzos, add 1 tablespoon onion flakes, 2 teaspoons oregano and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
7. For a nutritious low-sodium snack mix 1 cup of popcorn with 1/8 teaspoon chili powder.
8. For tasty salt alternatives, experiment with curry powder, paprika, dill weed, oregano, tarragon and rosemary. TO REDUCE FAT
9. If you don't like the taste of skim milk, try drinking half and half: half skim milk and half whole. You'll cut 4 grams of fat from your diet, equal to 36 calories.
10. Make soups a day ahead of time and refrigerate. The next day, skim off the coagulated fat. Heat and serve.
11. Serve chicken without the skin; however, remove skin after cooking. The skin acts as a protective covering to seal in juice.
12. For a nutritious low-fat sandwich filling, mix 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas with 1/2 cup chopped lettuce and tomato. Stuff into whole-wheat pita bread.
13. Use low-fat yogurt and snipped chives instead of sour cream on baked potatoes. One-half cup sour cream has 227 calories and more than 21 grams of fat, compared to 61 calories and 2 grams of fat for low-fat yogurt.
14. Switch from high-fat cheeses like swiss and cheddar to low-fat ones. For a quick nutritious lunch, take a 3-ounce piece of pot cheese with some whole-wheat melba toast and a few slices of tomato.
15. Add bread crumbs to ground beef as a meat extender to lower the fat content of hamburgers. To make 2 3-ounce burgers, add 1 ounce of bread crumbs to 5 ounces of meat. TO LOWER CHOLESTEROL
16. Instead of a 2-egg omelet, use the yolk of only 1 egg and the whites of 2. You'll save about 275 milligrams of cholesterol.
17. Reduce the number of eggs you use by combining them with other foods. Instead of egg salad made with 3 eggs, for example, use 1 or 2 eggs mixed with 1/2 cup chopped spinach.
18. Experiment with recipes for angel food cake -- it's made with only the egg whites.
19. Have a hearty high-protein, cholesterol-free lunch salad using fresh spinach, sliced mushrooms, chopped hard-cooked egg whites and imitation bacon bits. Sprinkle with wine vinegar and freshly grated black pepper. TO REDUCE ALCOHOL
20. Drink white wine mixed with club soda. Because of the effervescence, you'll drink less.
21. Combine red wine with fresh fruit juice and plenty of ice. Limit yourself to an 8-ounce glass of the mixture. TO ADD NUTRIENTS
22. To boost the Vitamin A in your diet, add fresh chopped parsley to a salad. Each tablespoon adds a healthy 850 I.U. (International Units), or almost one-quarter, of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance).
23. When baking bread, add 1 tablespoon soy flour to the bottom of each cup of flour to add protein and B vitamins.
24. To increase fiber in your diet, eat whole fruits instead of just drinking fruit juices. An apple, for example, supplies 1.5 grams of fiber; a pear, 2.8 grams.
25. To lower your caffeine intake, use 1/2 teaspoon regular instant coffee with 1/2 teaspoon decaffeinated. Regular instant contains between 66 and 99 milligrams of caffeine per 6-ounce fluid cup, whereas decaffeinated ranges from only 1 to 6 milligrams. In one cup alone, you'll reduce your intake by at least 33 milligrams.