for Reducing Fat in Your Diet
By Sandy Markiewicz, RD, MBA - for
Global Health &
By now you know that
too much fat--especially saturated fat--is not good for you. Your body can
easily store excess calories from fat as body fat. Plus, saturated fats from
animal products, such as meats and dairy foods, can clog your arteries and
contribute to heart disease.
But be careful.
Although reducing dietary fat is important, eliminating all fat from your diet
is not at all healthy. Fat is an essential nutrient that produces energy for
daily activities and supplies the body with vitamins A, D and E, which are
needed for healthy skin and optimal growth. The body cannot produce fat on its
own; it must be provided through dietary intake. For these reasons you should
enjoy some fats in your diet, especially monounsaturated fats like olive oil.
The key is moderation--not elimination.
Dietary fat is found
in both animal and plant foods. There are three basic classifications of fat:
(1) monounsaturated, (2) polyunsaturated and (3) saturated. Unsaturated
fats--especially monounsaturated fats--are considered the "healthier" ones.
Sources of unsaturated fats include nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and soft
that an excessive intake of saturated fats tends to raise blood
cholesterol levels, thereby increasing risk for heart disease. Animal
products--such as beef, butter, dairy products and lard--typically contain more
saturated fat than do vegetable products. But some vegetable oils, such as
coconut and palm oil (also known as tropical oils), contain large amounts of
There's also an
unclassified newcomer in the fat realm--trans fatty acid.
Trans fatty acids are the end products of a process called
hydrogenation, in which vegetable oils are hardened. The implications
that trans fatty acids may play a negative role on health is currently
being reviewed, but many nutrition professionals are already advising a limited
recommend that Americans consume 30 percent or less of their total daily
calories from fat, with 10 percent or less of those calories from saturated
fat. Use the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels to help determine how much
fat is in food. The following chart can help guide your fat intake. Determine
how many calories are in your diet and use the chart to discover how many grams
of fat are in 30 percent and 10 percent of your calorie intake. Remember,
the recommended percentages refer to your total fat intake over time, not the
fat in single foods or meals.
| Calories per Day
| Total Fat per Day (grams)
| Total Saturated Fat per Day (grams)
| 40 or less
| 13 or less
| 53 or less
| 18 or less
| 67 or less
| 22 or less
| 73 or less
| 24 or less
| 83 or less
| 27 or less
10 Tips to Reduce
To help cut down on
your fat intake, use the following tips when preparing foods:
1. Use evaporated skim
milk instead of cream when preparing sauces or desserts.
2. Create your own
nonfat salad dressing by mixing balsamic vinegar, mustard and herbs. If you
really prefer an oil-based dressing, try using three parts vinegar to one part
3. Drain nonfat yogurt
through a sieve or cheesecloth overnight in the refrigerator, and use in
recipes that call for cream.
4. Saute foods in
chicken broth, vegetable stock, tomato juice or wine instead of frying them in
oil or butter.
5. Keep olive oil in a
spray bottle to a lightly coat sauté pans.
6. You can make your
own taco shells. Hang soft corn tortillas directly over the oven rack (with the
sides of the tortilla hanging down) and bake at 400 degrees until they're
crisp. (Taco shells sold in supermarkets are usually fried.)
7. Whip up your own
french fries. Place _-inch-thick potato slices on a nonstick baking pan and
coat with a light spray of oil. Sprinkle with paprika or salt, and bake at 350
degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Turn once during baking. (For a different flavor,
try this recipe with sweet potatoes.)
8. To maximize flavor,
toast nuts before baking with them. That way, you'll be able to use less. Or
sprinkle nuts on top of a home-baked dessert instead of mixing them into the
9. Substitute six egg
whites plus one whole egg for every three eggs in your favorite
10. Substitute an
equal amount of applesauce or any baby-food fruits for up to half of the total
oil in your favorite dessert recipes. Strained prunes actually enhance the
chocolate flavor in brownies!
RD, MBA, is the president of Nutrition Marketing Consultants, a consulting firm
based in Chicago, Illinois, that designs nutrition programs for personal
trainers, health clubs, corporations and individuals.
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