First you need to understand what your limits are - that is, how much fat you should eat to have a healthy diet. Your limit depends on whether you have high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes. Then you need to understand how to choose foods and amounts to stay within those limits.

Whether or not you have high cholesterol, heart disease, or diabetes:

  • Limit your total fat intake to no more than 25% to 35% of your total daily calories. Total fat is a combination of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fat. Keep reading to learn how to do this.
  • Limit your saturated fat intake to less than 7% of your total daily calories.

These percentage limits come from the May 2001 National Cholesterol Education Program and the American Heart Association. But what do the percentages mean? How is this supposed to help you plan your meals? This is confusing for many people. Keep reading to learn more.

How Can I Figure Out the Percentage of Fat I Eat?

You can use either of the following two ways to make sense of these limits.

  • Figure out how to calculate the percentage of calories from fat in your foods. Then make sure you stay in the right range.
  • Learn how many grams of fat you can have each day and then stay at or below this level. You may need to write down the grams of fat that you eat throughout the day to keep track.

Whichever method you use, remember this tip. Your limits of no more than 25% to 35% of calories from fat and less than 7% of calories from saturated fat apply to your diet over several days. You don't have to apply these limits to each food item that you eat. It's OK to eat some foods that are higher in fat, as long as you balance them out with other foods that are lower in fat.

Also, there's no reason to go much lower than these limits unless your doctor says that you should. You do need to get some fat from your food because it plays an important role in your body. For instance, fat helps carry certain vitamins through your bloodstream, keep your skin healthy, and provide energy.