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Keep Cheese And Nuts In Check

Steering clear of sweets and fatty fried foods can help keep your weight down but snacking on cheese and nuts can sabotage any diet, Paul Moniz reports.

Americans eat more than 28 pounds of cheese a year and some nutritionists believe the habit is making us fat.

"I think a lot of people do eat too much cheese," concedes Lisa Drayer, a registered dietician from "The quantity is too much."

Drayer says while cheese provides calcium and protein, it's loaded with calories and artery-clogging saturated fat, but the killer is that almost no one realizes that the correct portion size is astoundingly small.

A tiny 1-ounce cube packs 120 calories and 10 grams of fat. The problem is that most of us eat much more than that, maybe 5 or 6 ounces at a sitting, especially at parties.

That works out to a half-a-day's worth of calories, which is before you get to the nuts, another pound packer.

"I think it's worse, because you tend to have nuts in bowls," Drayer says. "People just grab the nuts."

Most people are unaware the proper serving size for nuts is only a quarter of a cup, which works out to a measly 10 macadamia nuts for a whopping 220 calories and 22 grams of fat.

Even so-called healthy sunflower kernels have 170 calories and 15 fat grams per serving size, but few of us stop there.

"Before you know it, you've consumed 500 or 1,000 calories just from nuts if you keep putting your hands in the bowl," Drayer says.

The best way to enjoy cheese and nuts without gaining weight is to watch portion sizes and to make leaner choices: Not all nuts and cheeses are created equal.

For example, feta cheese is less dense than cheddar so 1 ounce goes further--with half the calories. Other good choices include light cheese, cottage and ricotta cheese, mozzarella, and goat cheese.

"Low-fat goat cheese is great because it's very low in calories, with only 45 calories and 3 grams of fat for 1 ounce," Drayer says.

If you think fat-free lacks taste, opt for the 2% fat variety with 50 calories, 3 grams of fat and extra calcium.

As for nuts, all are high in monounsaturated fat, which can lower bad cholesterol, but almonds and sunflower kernels have less fat, and by mixing them with raisins, you can cut calories by a third.

Drayer says you don't have to cut out cheese and nuts, but you must practice the "C" word: control.

"The most important thing is learning to cut back on portion sizes," she stresses.

Grated cheeses, such as parmesan and romano, have as much fat as others but you tend to eat a lot less because their flavor is so strong: Therefore you consume fewer calories.

People who go out to eat or love pizza should ask that their food be specially prepared.

Order food without cheese or ask that only half the normal amount be used on your dishes, a request that can save 100 calories or more.

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