Fat is an essential macronutrient used in the body for energy. Because the word fat is used to describe unsightly weight as well as a nutrient, it is wrongly blamed for weight gain. While eating fat does not necessarily make you fat, there are certain types of unhealthy fats you should avoid for health reasons.
Saturated and trans fats increase the risk of heart disease while unsaturated fats can do the opposite. If you’re decreasing overall calorie intake, a smart strategy is to limit intake of unhealthy fats.
1. Eat Lean Meats. Some meats can be very high in fat, most of it being saturated (unhealthy). By cutting out these high fat meats, you can reduce your saturated fat intake and lower your calorie intake. If you are a meat lover, completely eliminating meat out of your diet is unrealistic. Instead, try to either decrease your intake of fatty meats (beef, pork) or replace them with lean meats (poultry, seafood, lean cuts of beef). An added benefit of seafood is that it is high in healthy fats which can lower your intake of heart disease.
2. Low Fat Dairy. For those that grew up on whole milk, moving to fat-free milk can be very difficult. Instead of shunning whole milk in favor of skim milk overnight, do it in steps. First get used to reduced fat milk (2%). Next move onto low fat milk (1%) and if you want to keep going, try skim milk. The whole process can take you 1-2 months. If you do this gradually, the taste difference will be less noticeable.
3. Bake. Baking food will result in a dish that is lower in fat and calories than other cooking methods such as frying. When you fry a food, you have to add butter or oil which gets absorbed into the food. Grilling is also a better option (though more time consuming).
4. Eliminate Junk Food. Most junk food is loaded with fat. If you have a habit of eating these foods on a regular basis, you need to find another source of food. Here are a few examples of fat content in some popular fast food items:
- McDonald’s Big Mac: 10g of saturated fat, 29g total fat
- Burger King Whopper: 10g/35g
- 1 slice (Pizza Hut) large pepperoni pizza: 6g/14g
5. Cook Your Own Food. Homemade food is almost always healthier than what you can get at a restaurant (fast food or sit-down). When you make your own recipes, you control what ingredients you use which will allow you to make changes and cut the saturated fat out of your meals. Use low fat dairy, less butter and bake or grill your dishes instead of frying them. If you need to add fat to a meal, use vegetables oils (particularly canola or olive oils).
The Bottom Line
Excess calories cause unwanted weight gain. It makes little difference whether those calories come from fats, carbohydrates or proteins. If you are trying to lose weight, a better strategy than eliminating all fats or all carbs is to cut the calories that have negative effects on your overall health. By using this smart calorie cutting strategy, you can lose weight and improve your overall health.