How Nutrition Works

Ways to Restrict Fat

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Remember, every time you add more oil to  a recipe you increase the amount of fat.

Cutting back on fat, especially saturated and trans fat, is one of the most important changes you can make in your diet if you want to prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. But how?

Start slowly. Don't try to cut back all at once; it won't work. A good example is milk. Don't try to switch from whole milk to skim milk in one fell swoop. Instead, switch to two percent milk first and stay with it until you get used to it, even if it takes months. Then switch to one percent milk and allow yourself even more time to get used to it. Finally, make the switch to skim milk. You may notice the difference, but you won't mind it, because you've allowed yourself to get used to a low-fat taste. This is a switch worth making, especially if you drink a lot of milk.

Count All Grams

You hear a lot about keeping your fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of calories, but does that mean every food you eat has to be less than 35 percent fat? Not at all. It means that your fat intake, as averaged out over three days -- or even a week -- should be 20 to 35 percent of your total calories. Some days can be over, if other days are under. Of course, some meals will be over, and others under. It makes sense, then, that some foods will be way over, because other foods are practically fat free.

The easiest way to keep track of all this is to count the number of fat grams you eat. You don't need to do it forever, just long enough so you have an idea of the fat content of foods and when you're close to going overboard. If you consistently eat about the same number of calories, you just need to find out your fat gram limit once. Then, no more calculations, just simple counting.

Remember, however, that this number is the maximum grams of fat allowed per day, on average, if your goal is 30 percent of calories from fat. Ideally, you might want to aim for even less.

Tips For Trimming Fat

To reduce the number of fat grams -- especially from saturated and trans fats -- that you eat, try some of the following hints.

  • Trim all meats of visible fat.
  • Limit a serving size of meat -- including poultry and fish -- to 3 to 4 ounces.
  • Buy lean cuts: those with round or loin in the name (sirloin, tenderloin, top round).
  • Choose select or choice grade cuts, not prime, and save one-third to one-half the fat.
  • Include more fish and poultry (without skin) in place of meat.
  • Cut back on added fats.
  • Choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats instead of saturated and trans fats.
  • Switch to a diet margarine and reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise and salad dressings to truly save fat grams.
  • Cook in nonstick pots and pans, using no added fat. Remember, each tablespoon of butter or margarine you throw in the pan adds about 12 grams of fat, and each tablespoon of oil adds 14 grams of fat. You can also use vegetable sprays such as Pam, or try sautéing with broth, soup stock, or juice.
  • Switch to low-fat or nonfat dairy products. Experiment with reduced-fat cheeses; some brands are better than others. Substitute low-fat yogurt for sour cream, or try a fat-free sour cream.
  • Read the labels on crackers and other snacks. Pass on those with trans fats or that list "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils in the ingredient list. If you're unsure of the fat in breads, crackers, and muffins, use the napkin test: Let the product sit on a napkin or paper towel for an hour or so; if it leaves a grease stain, there's too much fat in it.
  • Snack smart. Munch on pretzels instead of potato chips. Don't dip. Buy low-fat tortilla chips, and dip in salsa instead.
  • Have your salad at the end of your meal. It may take away your desire for rich desserts. If not, try fruit for a satisfyingly sweet dessert.
  • At restaurants -- especially fast-food joints -- beware breaded and fried items. Ask for sauces to be served on the side or not at all.
  • Beware the fat traps at salad bars. Steer clear of cold salads such as potato, macaroni, tuna, and coleslaw; they're usually loaded with mayonnaise.
  • Reducing fat is essential in a healthy diet. Some people are given strict instructions from their doctor to reduce fat or other elements from their diet. In our next section, we'll discuss special needs diets and how to follow and adapt to new dietary restrictions.

Of course, some dietary advice will not apply to everyone. In the next section, we will take a look at some special needs diets and how dietary concerns can change.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.