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Good Fats

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

There are several easy ways to get more "good" (unsaturated) fats in your diet while cutting out the "bad" (saturated and trans fats).

Good Fats

Get the Good Fats

  1. Dip your bread in olive oil (a good source of unsaturated fat) rather than butter or margarine.
  2. Use plant-based oils such as soy, olive, or corn oils, in cooking and baking rather than shortening, butter, or margarine.
  3. Switch from standard, stick margarine to softer ones that come in tubs, which contain less trans fats -- if you must use margarine.
  4. Eat red meat in moderation and avoid highly processed meat products such as bacon and sausage that are higher in fat.
  5. Trim the fat and skins from all types of meat, pork, and poultry.

You can have a healthy, higher-fat diet with good fats and also have a healthy, relatively low-fat diet if most of the carbohydrates are whole rather than refined.

Whole grain carbohydrate sources, such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and popcorn, are less processed and contain more fiber and nutrients than their refined counterparts such as white bread, bakery products, and most pastas.

Some fats in moderation are actually good for you.

Monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, can be heart-healthy. Some groups of people who get up to 40-percent of their calories from monounsaturated fats have very low rates of heart disease.

Another healthy fat is the one found in some fish (e.g., salmon, tuna), flaxseed and walnuts. This is, of course, omega-3 fatty acids.

Saturated and Trans Fats

Saturated fats and trans fatty acids, on the other hand, need to be kept to a minimum. Saturated fats are found in animal products. Trans fatty acids are found in hydrogenated vegetable oils like those used in shortening and many store-bought baked goods.

How To Cut Down On Saturated Fat

Concentrate on decreasing the amount of animal products as follows...


  • Purchase lean cuts.
  • Cut off all visible fat prior to cooking.
  • Use preparation methods that get rid of more fat, such as grilling.
  • Eat 2 to 3 ounce portions (cooked). This serving is about the size of the palm of your hand, a deck of cards, or a mayonnaise jar lid.

Poultry:  Take off the skin either before or after cooking. Eat 2 to 3 ounce portions (cooked).

Seafood:  Choose lower fat fish. Prepare with small amounts of fat. Eat 2 to 3 ounce portions (cooked).

Cheese:  Limit amount you eat. Buy part skim, lower calorie cheeses.

Butter:  Use tub margarine or whipped butter.
Use butter on occasion, maybe in a recipe.

Milk/yogurt:  Use the fat-free (skim) varieties.

Processed Foods:  Read the labels of processed foods and check for tropical oils (such as palm or coconut), and see how far down on the ingredient list they fall. Ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance in the product. The ingredient used in the greatest quantity is listed first, and the ingredient used in the smallest quantity is listed last.

How to beef up monounsaturated fats:

  • Monounsaturated fats are known as the good guys. Monounsaturated fats offer the benefit of lowering cholesterol, while not decreasing the body's good cholesterol (HDL).
  • Stock canola and/or olive oil in your cupboard. Use these oils to saute, cook, prepare salad dressing or bake.
  • Throw a few nuts on foods -- salads, desserts, stir-fries.
  • Use a slice or two of avocado on a salad, to garnish a casserole, or for guacamole as a Mexican topping.
  • Use a few olives on a relish plate, to toss in a salad, as a garnish.
  • Buy canola or olive oil-based commercial salad dressings, canola-based margarine and mayonnaise or make your own with olive or canola oil.

Spare and Skim the Bad Fat

Low Fat Dairy Products

  • Use fat-free or no more than 1 percent milk.
  • Take advantage of light and reduced fat cheeses. Find out which products you like best. Sometimes you just need to use less of the regular to get the taste you enjoy.
  • If a recipe calls for cheese and you want to use a regular type, buy a sharp variety and use a smaller quantity. The sharper taste gives more flavor with a smaller amount.
  • Buy the low-fat, light, and fat-free products that taste good to you. You might have to experiment with several -- margarine, butter (or blends), cream cheese, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream.
  • Remember, these products are not calorie-free. Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label to learn more about the product.
  • Buy the low-fat, reduced-calorie or fat-free salad dressing that has the taste you like. No matter what salad dressing you use, don't pour on too much. Remember a 1/4 of a cup can contain as many carbohydrates as a slice of bread.
  • Use low or no sugar jelly or jam instead of margarine or cream cheese on bagel, toast, or muffins.
  • Use plain, fat-free yogurt or fat-free sour cream instead of regular sour cream -- add herbs and spices to make it tasty. Use it on baked potatoes, vegetables, chicken (and yes, chicken thighs can be made healthy, too!) and fish.
  • Always keep fresh lemon and lime on hand to squirt on vegetables and fish at the table instead of adding more fat (such as sauces or butter).
  • When you buy meats, buy lean cuts; trim off excess fat; prepare in low fat and moist ways.
  • Marinate meats and vegetables in wine, vinegars, seasonings and spices to add flavors without adding fat.
  • Consider using applesauce, prune puree or other dried fruit puree to replace fat in baked goods recipes.

Where Trans Fats Lurk

Here's where artificial trans are found, based on Food and Drug Administration data:*

Chocolate Donut

  • 51 percent in baked goods (breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, pies)
  • 22 percent in margarines
  • 10 percent in fried potatoes
  • 6 percent in potato chips, corn chips
  • 5 percent in shortening
  • 4 percent in salad dressing
  • 1 percent in breakfast cereals

*Total is not 100 percent due to rounding.

Avoid Trans Fats

  • Use olive oil for all cooking.
  • Use trans fat-free margarine - soft tub or liquid margarine instead of hard stick margarine.
  • Generally, the softer the better and liquid is better yet. A tablespoon of stick margarine has about 1.9 grams of trans fat; a tablespoon of regular tub margarine, 0.8 grams. Check the label for trans-free brands. All Promise margarine is trans fat-free as are Fleishmann's in tubs. By government standards, trans-fat means less than 0.5 grams per serving.
  • When eating out, avoid deep fried foods! A batter-dipped whole fried onion -- an appetizer popular at steak houses -- has 18 grams of trans fats, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Other trans fat horrors: cheese fries, onion rings, fried seafood and fried chicken and fish.
  • Restrict foods made with "partially hydrogenated" oils as noted on labels. The higher those words appear in the ingredient list, the more trans fat. Half the fat of a cookie may be trans fat. A doughnut contains four to nine grams of trans fat. If a label does not list trans fat, add up what is listed (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated) and subtract from the total fat grams. The difference is trans fat. Also, be sure your food is low in saturated fat, a partner that brings on heart disease.

During the course of your day, when making your meal choices whether cooking healthy at home or eating out, pick the good fats!