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Losing Weight -- Do you have to skip dessert?

Making Dessert Part of a Balanced Diet
Desserts loaded with lots of sugar and fat won't help you lose weight.
Desserts loaded with lots of sugar and fat won't help you lose weight.
Lauren Burke/Getty Images

Making the most of a meal means getting the best nutritional value for the calories you consume. This is a good approach to diet that dovetails nicely with the information on federally mandated food labels. Federal guidelines place a recommended daily limit or minimum on the amount of fat and other substances that should be included in a 2,000-calorie diet. If you remain within the guidelines for the number of calories you've allotted yourself, you'll lose weight and be well on your way to eating a balanced diet. If some of those calories are expended on dessert, you're still covered. It's the overall number of calories, and where they come from, that you need to worry about.

There are some things to keep in mind, though. The guidelines don't list quantities for some substances, like sugars, that can contribute to an unhealthy diet. Also, most people won't lose weight consuming 2,000 calories a day, so you'll have to scale back the numbers based on the calories you do plan on consuming. There are some basic figures that can help here:

  • Fat should constitute only 25 to 30 percent of your total daily calorie intake. Less than 10 percent of that should come from saturated fat. You should also keep trans fat consumption to a minimum.
  • Keep sodium consumption to less than one teaspoon a day. Read labels carefully. There's sodium hidden in lots of unexpected foods. Many sugary foods include salt for added flavor.
  • Eat two cups of fruit a day and two and a half cups of vegetables.
  • Limit sugar intake. Generally, less is more where sugar is concerned.
  • Half of your daily consumption of grains should come from whole grains.

Armed with this information, you can make some useful decisions about how to divide your calories and still include dessert on the menu.