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Patient education: Low-fat diet (The Basics)

Patient education: Low-fat diet (The Basics)

What are fats? — The fat in the food you eat is often classified into 2 groups:

"Healthy" fats – These are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. They tend to be more liquid at room temperature. Healthy fats are found in things like olive oil, canola oil, and sesame oil. They are also found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and nut butters.

"Unhealthy" fats – These are saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are animal fats. Trans fats are artificial fats, like partially hydrogenated oils. These fats raise your cholesterol. Unhealthy fats tend to be more solid at room temperature. They are found in meats, egg yolks, butter, cheese, and full-fat milk products. They are also found in some fried foods, butter, margarine, and baked goods like cookies or cakes.

Why do I need a low-fat diet? — The amounts and kinds of fats you eat can affect your health. This is especially true if you have specific conditions such as blocked arteries or gallbladder problems. Eating fewer unhealthy fats is 1 way to improve your health.

Some people try to eat less fat because they want to lose weight or avoid gaining weight. But this does not always work. That's because weight gain is related to how many calories you eat, no matter what foods they come from. Eating fewer unhealthy fats can be an important part of a weight loss plan. But it's also important to be aware of how many calories you are getting from other foods.

What can I eat and drink on a low-fat diet? — Choose foods with healthy fats.

Foods with healthy fats include:

Canola, peanut, and olive oil

Safflower, sunflower, soybean, and corn oil

Walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and peanuts

Pumpkin, sesame, flax, and sunflower seeds

Salmon, tuna, and some other fish

Tofu

Soy milk

Avocado

Other healthy foods with lower amounts of fats include:

Fat-free (non-fat) or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese

Light, low-fat or fat-free cream cheese and sour cream

Dried beans, lentils, and tofu

Fruits and vegetables

Whole-grain breads, cereals, pastas, and rice

High-fiber foods, like oatmeal, fruits, beans, and nuts. These have soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol in the body.

Deli ham, turkey, chicken breast, and lean roast beef

What foods and drinks should I limit on a low-fat diet? — It is important to limit certain foods with unhealthy fats.

Limit these types of foods that have saturated fats:

Whole-fat dairy products like cheese, ice cream, whole milk, and cream

High-fat meats like beef, lamb, poultry with the skin, bacon, hot dogs, and sausage

Processed deli meats like bologna, pepperoni, and salami

Butter and lard

Palm and coconut oils

Mayonnaise, salad dressings, gravies, and sauces

Limit these types of foods that might have trans fats:

Granola, candy, and baked goods like cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and muffins

Pizza dough, and pie crusts that are packaged

Fried foods

Frozen dinners

Chips and crackers

Microwave popcorn

Stick margarine and vegetable shortenings

What else should I know? — You do not have to remove all fat from your diet. Instead, pay attention to the amount and kinds of fats that you eat.

Read the labels of store-bought foods (figure 1) to find out how much fat is in each. Under 5 percent of total fat on a label means that it is "low fat." Over 20 percent of total fat on a label means that it is "high fat." Avoid foods with "partially hydrogenated oil" in the ingredient list. This means that there is trans fat in the food.

Change how you cook to help lower the amount of fat in your food:

Remove the fatty parts of meat and the skin from poultry before cooking

Bake, broil, grill, poach, or roast poultry, fish, and lean meats

Drain and throw away the fat that comes out of meat as you cook it

Try to add little or no fat to foods

Use olive or canola oil for cooking or baking

Steam your vegetables

Use herbs or no-oil marinades to flavor foods

More on this topic

Patient education: Diet and health (The Basics)
Patient education: Diet for inflammatory bowel disease in adults (The Basics)
Patient education: Chronic pancreatitis (The Basics)

Patient education: Diet and health (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Losing weight (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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