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Weight Loss: Reducing Dietary Fat

Where Do I Start?

  • Eat a variety of lower-fat foods to get all the nutrients you need.
  • Watch your calorie intake. Remember, "low fat" does not always mean "low calorie."
  • Eat plenty of unprocessed, whole plant-based foods (such as whole grain products, fruits and vegetables) and a moderate amount of lean and low-fat, animal-based foods (meat and dairy products) to help control your fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate, and calorie intake.
  • Increase your physical activity to improve heart health and lose excess body fat.


What Goals Should I Try to Meet?

  • Decrease the total amount of fat you eat to 20%-35% or less of your total daily calories. For a person eating 2,000 calories a day, this would be 44-77 grams of fat or less per day.
  • Limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) or less per day.
  • Decrease saturated fat (for example, animal fat, butter, and coconut and palm oils) to less than 10% of your total calories per day. For a person eating 2000 calories a day, this would be 20 grams of saturated fat or less per day. And choose healthy unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats. Healthy fats include olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, salmon, and avocado.

Tips for Reducing Fat Intake

When selecting foods:

  • Learn about the foods you eat by reading nutrition labels. Look for "low-fat," "nonfat" and "reduced-fat" claims on food packages. Focus on total fat, but always try to choose foods low in saturated or trans fats. When selecting food, balance those with a higher fat amount against those with a lower fat amount to stay within your fat total or "budget" for the day.
  • Choose lean meats, fish, and poultry. Limit these to 5-7 ounces per day. Other good low-fat sources of protein include dried beans and peas, tofu, low-fat yogurt, low-fat or skim milk, low-fat  cheese, and tuna packed in water.  Choose foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, flaxseed, and walnuts for heart health.  The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish such as salmon twice weekly for the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Enjoy low-fat (no more than 3 grams of fat per serving) or nonfat cheeses and spreads. Try low-fat or fat-free versions of your favorite margarine, salad dressing, cream cheese, and mayonnaise as a substitute for the “regular” alternatives.

When preparing foods:

  • Trim all visible fat and remove the skin from poultry.
  • Refrigerate soups, gravies and stews, and remove the hardened fat on top before eating.
  • Bake, broil, or grill meats on a rack that allows fat to drip from the meat. Avoid frying foods.
  • Sprinkle lemon juice and herbs/spices on cooked vegetables instead of using cheese, butter, or cream-based sauces.
  • Try plain, nonfat or low-fat yogurt and chives on baked potatoes rather than sour cream. Reduced-fat sour cream still contains fat, so you must limit the amount you use.

When dining out:

  • Choose simply-prepared foods such as broiled, roasted or baked fish or chicken. Avoid fried or sautéed foods, casseroles, and foods with heavy sauces and gravies.
  • Request that your food be cooked without added butter, margarine, gravy or sauces.
  • Request salad with low-fat dressing on the side.
  • Select fruit, angel food cake, nonfat frozen yogurt, sherbet, or sorbet for dessert instead of ice cream, cake, or pie.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on August 03, 2012

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