Consumer trends in nutrition often breed confusion. One research study negates another. Advocacy groups support personalized areas of interest. Food labels spout confusing information.

Anita Owen, M.S., R.D. and senior vice president of the National Dairy Council, clarified nutritional issues of the decade in a recent presentation sponsored by the Dairy Council of Utah. Local dietitians and other nutritional leaders participated."Consumers are bombarded with health education information," Owen suggested. "Many professional groups issue dietary guidelines enabling the general public to reduce the fat content in the diet. Too often the tone of the guidelines is negative. We emphasize the bad foods, the foods to avoid."

With a negative emphasis, Owen feels we forget about the pleasure of food - that it possesses sensory and aesthetic qualities, as well as nutritional benefits.

The National Dairy Council, in its consumer education package developed a positive approach to reduced-fat diets entitled, "Healthy Dividends, A Plan for Balancing Your Fat Budget."

The program consists of a video presentation and a 14-page workbook and is administered by health professionals. Designated at the present time for use by high-risk or at-risk individuals (about one-third of the population), "Healthy Dividends" is based on balanced quotas of fat in the diet.

Nutritionists now recommend no more than 30% of daily calories from fat and no more than 10% from saturated fat. With the fat budgeting approach, you can spend your "fat quota" on whatever foods you like, as long as you stay within your budgeted amount.

Individual fat budgets are determined by age, sex and weight. For example, if you are female between 25 and 50 years and weigh 130-150 pounds, your fat allotment would be 75 grams. A male of 51 plus years and 180-200 pounds requires 85 grams of fat a day.

With the "Healthy Dividends" program, an individual may eat foods including fat levels up to his personalized prescription. Selections may include a variety of foods with varying levels of fat content. For example, one-twelfth of a cheesecake contains 20 grams of fat, a three-ounce steak contains 10 grams of fat, the same amount as one cup of whole milk.

The secret to balancing the fat budget is portion size. Monitoring the number of portions consumed provides a daily nutritional account balance.

"Selecting foods within the fat budget allows individuals to mix and match their food choices. This program also provides the freedom to eat favorite foods without feeling guilty, one of the legitimate pitfalls of diet management," continued Owen.

Though the "Healthy Dividends" concepts are new to the public, Owens reported widespread interest in the program.

Local referrals for at-risk and high-risk individuals are available through Karen Barker, R.D., Utah Dairy Council, 487-9976.