Over the years, what we are told about dietary fat varies from year to year. Fat is good for you, fat is bad for you. Buy foods that are fat-free; no, buy low-fat; actually, we want to consume foods that are full-fat… what is accurate?! What are the benefits of dietary fat? Most importantly, what is the best choice or types of dietary fat for you to include in your diet for your overall health?
What is dietary fat?
Fat is a macronutrient that we need from food. The fats we eat are broken down in our bodies into fatty acids that are used for energy and for our different metabolic systems. Dietary fat keeps us full and satiated after meals. It helps absorb certain vitamins from our food, and it makes food taste good! A general goal is for 20-35% of your total daily calorie intake to come from sources of fat.
Low-fat or fat-free?
So what’s the deal with low-fat or fat-free products? The information you may find on the internet can be overwhelming. With so many voices and opinions and diet books and food bloggers, it can be confusing to know if full-fat/fat-free/low-fat is the best option for you. As nutrition experts, no matter the latest diet craze, we know that a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and heart-healthy fats will always be great choices in supporting your health.
Rather than eating an exclusively low-fat or fat-free diet, focus on your overall eating pattern. In fact, products labeled as “fat-free” or even “low-fat” have an increased amount of sugar added compared to the regular version of the item. Remember, one meal or snack will not make or break your health, it is the foods that you choose to consume most of the time that will have the largest overall impact on your health. A good general guide to follow at mealtime is to have vegetables and fruits take up roughly half of your plate. Fill the remainder with whole grains, lean proteins, and a source of healthy fat. Pairing at least two or three different food groups, including fat, will increase your satisfaction and deliver more nutrients to your body at mealtime.
Food sources of fat
So what fats should we focus on eating most of the time? Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids instead of foods higher in saturated fat. These foods include fatty fish like salmon and tuna, vegetable and seed oils, nuts, and avocados.
- Try grilled, steamed, or baked salmon, trout, or mackerel instead of fried or breaded fish.
- Include a variety of different protein sources in your diet by eating more seafood and plant-based proteins like beans and lentils.
- Choose leaner sources of meat like poultry, game meats, and lean ground beef
- Swap your salad topping of croutons for options like walnuts or pumpkin seeds. Take it a step further and also swap the creamy dressing for an olive oil-based salad dressing.
Do you need additional guidance and support for creating a meal plan for yourself? A meal plan that is nutrient-dense with the right types of dietary fat and helps you achieve your nutrition goals? Consider scheduling an appointment with one of our dietitians today!