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January 23, 2012 at 6:27 PMComments: 8 Faves: 0

Hold the Mayo! Save Calories and Add Nutrients - Opt For Avocado!

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Dietitian's Dish Blog Series

Swap out your usual mayonnaise for avocado the next time you make a sandwich and you will quickly save up to 200 calories, (the same amount found in up to 3 slices of white bread!) making this simple swap not only waistline friendly, but heart healthy to boot!

When it comes to our heart, the fat we eat plays a huge role in how healthy it actually is - both negatively and positively.

On the negative end of fat influences we have saturated fat intake (the type found in meat, poultry, dairy, and tropical oils) and avoid trans-fat (the man-made, hydrogenated oils found in baked goods and other processed snacks). On the positive, we have the healthy and essential fats known as unsaturated fats. These heart healthy fats may sound familiar to you. They are the same type that made olive oil so popular!

Avocado - A Healthy Fat Source

Thankfully avocados are rich in the latter fats, particularly the monounsaturated variety, a type actually found to reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol! What’s really interesting though, is that this decadent fruit is not only rich in savory fats (already making it unique among its fellow fruits), it is also low in sugar - nutrient characteristics which have led health experts to count a 1-ounce or 2 tablespoon serving as a fat serving rather than the expected fruit serving.

However, I would not let this discourage you from adding avocado to your diet! When it comes to finding a place for healthy fats, the goal is to keep the bigger picture in mind. We want to choose sources that have more good fats than bad fats — avocados, nuts, and vegetable oils instead of fatty meats, dairy, and butter. We also want to completely avoid trans-fats.

While there is no specific number of  fat grams to aim for each day, the American Heart Association recommends that we limit our total fat intake to less than 25%-35% of our total calories, while aiming for a majority of unsaturated fats from fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and olive oil. If you still need a number, this recommendation translates into roughly 400 to 700 calories a day, or about 44 to 78 grams of total fat, for someone following a 2,000 calorie diet. This is the amount found in roughly 2-4 servings of fat each day.

Now back to that simple swap mentioned earlier.

Two-tablespoons or a golf-ball sized dollop of nutrient rich avocado packs:

  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • Only 50 calories
  • 4.5 grams of primarily heart healthy fat
  • ZERO cholesterol or sodium!

When compared with the 200 calories found in 2 tablespoons of butter or 150 calories found in mayonnaise - both of which bring saturated fat and sodium to boot, the choice is clear.

The total fat content will actually depend on the type of avocado as the Florida avocado, also known as the SlimCado, is larger in size yet has 50% less fat than the California or Hass avocado making it an attractive option for those of you trying to trim down. As small as that may seem, truly, every calorie adds up and counts!

No matter what type of avocado you choose, I would like to challenge you to introduce this tasty fruit into your meals. Most of us do not get enough of these heart-healthy fats in our diet and I promise you, this creamy orb is a great way to reach this nutrition goal. Avocados taste great sliced up in a salad, spread on to your sandwich, transformed into guacamole, or used as the star ingredient of one of these delicious appetizers below.

Creamy Avocado Dip

(Serves 12) (Courtesy of my good friend and fellow registered dietitian, Sarah VanEerden)

Ingredients:

  • 2 avocados, ripe and soft to the touch
  • 2 TBSP lime juice (from about 1 lime)
  • 2 ounces chèvre (goat cheese), room temperature
  • ½ cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 20 chives, snipped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Delicious when served with toasted whole grain pita bread, crostini, fresh veggies, or oven-baked root chips.

Spinach Avocado Dip

(Serves 12)

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 avocados, ripe and soft to the touch
  • 1 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 TBSP + 1 tsp lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add oil, shallots, and garlic. Stir frequently for about 4 minutes, using caution to prevent garlic from browning.
  2. Add spinach and ½ teaspoon salt to the skillet and cover, allowing to cook for another 4 minutes or until the spinach has wilted. Once cooked, remove the lid to allow the liquids to cook off. Once the liquids have mostly evaporated, move the mixture to the refrigerator for about 25 minutes.
  3. In a food processor, puree avocados, yogurt, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Once smooth, season with fresh ground pepper.
  4. Chop up the spinach mixture until spinach is in bite size pieces and then stir this mixture into the avocado puree.
  5. Tastes great as a dip for sliced cucumber, jicama, or pumpernickel bread.

Now it’s your turn. How do you like to use avocado? Do you have a favorite recipe or perhaps you tried one of these recipe ideas? I would love to hear your take on this gorgeously green fruit ;)

Photo Credits:

Blue Square Thing@flickr

cyberpenguin@flickr

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8 Comments

  • So funny that you should post this now, Jessica - I ordered a Jimmy John's veggie sub yesterday for lunch, and I decided to skip out on the mayo and let the avocado do the work! I've looked it up on the calorie calculator on their website, and it's amazing how many calories you save that way - and the avocado is so wonderful, you don't miss the mayo at all.

    Those recipes look wonderful! One way I like to enjoy avocados is mashed up with cut-up tomatoes, basil, and a pinch of salt. Delicious!

  • My biggest problem with avocado... that I can't grow it in Michigan!

  • Excellent point, Sprouty. Do you grow ALL of your own food?

    Laura, I just love your example & I will soon be trying out your quick, simple salad - perhaps with some cubed cucumber as well! Thanks for sharing :)

  • As a mostly vegetarian (I do sometimes eat fish) and someone with a degree of lactose intolerance avocado makes a great, rich meat and cheese substitute for me!

    I'll make whole wheat avocado wraps with just slices of avocado, tomato, and onion, drizzle with lime juice a little sea salt, pepper, a bit of sriracha rooster sauce or hot salsa (I love spicy food!) plus loads of cilantro for flavor and antioxidants.

    I've recently found a more creative use of avocado though. I'll switch it out for mayonnaise when I make a tuna salad! When I do this, I "mexicanize" the dish - rather than mustard, and pickle, I'll add a chopped pickled cactus, and either my favorite rooster sauce or purred ancho chile. ( I recently found it canned in the ethnic foods isle and it's been a cupboard staple every since!) Then I'll use that in either a wrap or with tortilla chips. Yum! :)

  • I do not grow all our own food. Just a bunch in the summer. Of course, that's until I build my enormous greenhouse!

  • This is weird I was just looking at Jimmy John's menu and I was going to order my sub with avocado spread instead of mayo. After reading this blog now I will for sure! Thanks Jessica

  • Love to hear that, Nancy! Sounds like you and Laura are thinking alike :)

    Sprouty, sounds like you are quite the gardener! Great work! Doing my best to grow more and more each year. Looking forward to the new plants, flowers, and challenges as I continue learning and GROWING. In fact, I am already planning out our garden for this summer.

  • I don't like mayo on anything, avocado to the rescue!

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