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Calorie Count Blog

5 Dietary Patterns and Healthy Switches

By +Carolyn Richardson on Jun 05, 2012 09:00 AM in Healthy Eating

Do you find yourself naturally eating the same foods week after week? Sure holidays and parties are exceptions, but if you look at your daily food log you should see a pattern. According to a new report funded by The National Institutes of Health and General Mills, Americans follow five dietary patterns: southern, traditional, healthy, sweets, and alcohol.

  • Southern - fried, processed meats, and sugar sweetened beverages
  • Traditional - Chinese and Mexican food, pasta dishes, pizza, soup and other mixed dishes including frozen or take-out meals
  • Healthy - mostly fruits, vegetables and grains
  • Sweets - large amounts of sweet snacks and desserts
  • Alcohol - proteins, alcohol and salads

The findings outlined in a press release by the American Heart Association do not single out certain foods or nutrients, but point to a probable menu certain Americans regularly adhere to. Over 21,000 adults 45 and over completed a 110-food item questionnaire about their usual and customary intake. The point of the study was to better represent how people eat according to lead author, Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. No matter which pattern you fit into, ensuring you get the nutrients you need while staying within a reasonable caloric intake will keep you from gaining weight.

Bridging the Gap between A Healthy Diet and Your Preferences

While the healthy dietary pattern is preferable to others, you can modify other patterns to continue to enjoy the tastes you like, without missing out on healthful foods. Here are some switches you can make in each pattern to stay healthy.


The usual cooking method for frying foods can be modified to give you a deep-fried taste without all the fried fare. There are oven-fried chicken recipes that can cut the calories and fat grams of regular fried chicken in half. Other oven-fried recipes for fries, pork chops, catfish and other southern foods are worth taking the time to perfect. In exchange for processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, pepperoni, salami, and other deli meats, go for roasted turkey, chicken, or steak. Stick to no more than a 3 oz. serving of meat at each meal and add lentils or black beans for more fiber. If you can’t seem to put the cup down on sugar-sweetened beverages, stick to one serving of 8 or 12 oz. to start and add the same amount of water each time you drink. It is recommended you get down to two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages a week or less. 


Many Chinese restaurants can steam meats and rice, so ask for stir-fried vegetables with the meat and rice steamed and sauce on the side. You can cut calories from Mexican food by eating less cheese and meat and adding vegetables into tacos, burritos, and nachos. Keep melted cheese to a one-cup serving. Spanish rice can be made with brown rice, and whole wheat tortillas can replace corn for more fiber. The same is true for pasta dishes in terms of brown rice or whole wheat options. Pizza at home can be made on pita or flat bread with low-fat cheese, boneless skinless chicken, and roasted vegetables.


If desserts, chocolate or candy are your downfall, plan your indulgences to stay in control. A bag of dark chocolate chips can be kept and a serving can be added to oatmeal or cereal or even eaten with fresh fruit such as a banana or a bunch of blueberries. Try to stick to a 100 to 150-calorie serving. The same goes for sweet candy which should always be shared. Either half a package with a co-worker, or give yourself 10 a day if they are small pieces, such as M&M’s or Skittles. To keep your dessert ordering under control, plan dessert when eating a smaller meal and ask for a smaller portion. You may pay the same price, but who says you need to eat a full portion to be satisfied.


It's hard to tell someone to switch their drinking preferences, but here it goes. Drinks that mix different types of liquor such as Margaritas, Mudslides, Long Island Iced Teas, and those with added creams are highest on the calorie list. Spritzers and wine coolers have less alcohol so you'll save some calories there. If you mix vodka or rum with soda, try the diet version, i.e. tonic, ginger ale, coke, etc. In your salads, be sure to add proteins such as chicken, tuna, nuts, and legumes. Also be sure to add vegetables such as celery, carrots, sweet potato, jicama, and peas. To get the calorie count of your favorite beer or other alcoholic beverages start at our browser. For your sobriety and your daily calorie count, drink responsibly.

Your thoughts...

Which dietary patterns do you fit into? If not the "healthy diet" according to the guidelines above, how do you incorporate fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your meals?


I think the "alcohol" section needs some editing. it discusses drink options, then breaks into salad choices and then back to beer choices. just FYI! ;)

overall I like the content and idea here. this is mostly how I eat/what I choose to do while on vacation and I find that I easily maintain my weight this way, without doing much or hardly any calorie counting. good stuff! :)

Why are proteins and salads even in the "Alcohol" category?  Sometimes these articles are more entertaining than informative...

Did they really mean to say limit melted cheese to one cup? That is hundreds of calories and lots of fat.

I used to work  at a convience store and the people who were heavy drinkers almost never bought food but when they did it was ALWAYS nuts or fried potatoes

I have had 2 relatives die from malnutrition from alcoholism,not a pretty

I beg to differ. There are many women, not just on Ab Fab who exisit on salads lean protiens (skinless boneless chicken, fish, low fat cottage cheese) and alcohol. Don't believe me? Visit any trendy cafe in LA, San Diego Miami, or the Napa Valley. Do a little people watching and you'll see were the writer came up with this eating style.

This is only funny/peculiar because I so fit into the Alcohol category (limited alcohol-and cutting way back on the wine because of the calorie count).  Salads, protein and wine; in that order.  We exist all over the country, maybe it is overcompensation for drinking.

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