By Body Solutions Fitness Director- Keith Tesch, CSCS, CNT
The correlation between fat intake and losing weight, managing cholesterol and heart health has been debated by nutritionists and doctors alike for several decades. Take a stroll through any grocery store and our obsession with avoiding fat-laden foods is confirmed, with “guilt-free” options lining the aisles.
On a daily basis, how many of us consider the types of fat we eat? For most, fat from protein is the first consideration, and meal planning typically involves building courses around meat. Even if meat isn’t the all-star, a focus on protein incorporation is a likely inclination for future meals; vegetarians are constantly searching for foods that will provide a hearty source of protein. Protein is essential to a balanced diet, a vital part of meal planning, crucial for building and maintaining muscle, and of course, remaining satiated.
So where can healthy fat sources be found?
Fat contains nine calories per gram, making fat the most calorie-dense macronutrient. When constructing a meal plan, consider food containing healthy unsaturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats derived from plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, and avocados. Since fat can pile on the calories rather quickly, how you cook your food, the sauces or oils in which you prepare your meal, and the amount of fat utilized need mindful scrutiny.
Regardless of the fat source, overeating healthy fats can be just as detrimental as gorging on unhealthy fats, leading to unnecessary weight gain and stress on the body. The total amount of fat consumed in a day should depend on personal calorie requirements, health needs, and physical goals. For instance, an athlete consuming 3,000 calories a day with a 20% fat intake will need 67 grams of fat. Fat intake will be evenly spread over four to five meals with 13-17 grams at each meal.
Label reading is a smart practice in making sure ingredients do not contain partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, as these are the trans fats that can lead to heart disease. Trans fat dense foods include: cake mixes, microwave popcorn, and fried food. A great number of fast-food establishments have switched from frying in vegetable oil to using corn or peanut oil, as the latter does not contain the trans fats. Still, this doesn’t justify binging on fast food; the majority of offerings remain astronomically high in fat and calories. For smart eating, be sure to check out a restaurant’s website to scope nutrition information before dining.
The moral of the story? Limit intake of foods high in saturated fat. Trans fat is not your friend. The key to a healthy diet is all about selection: selecting foods that contain good fats rather than bad ones.
Below is a chart containing healthier fat options for animal and plant-based foods:
- Air popped popcorn, unsalted nuts, like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, brazil, and pine. Natural peanut butter and soynut butter
- Omega-3 enriched eggs, seeds (unsalted)- chia, sunflower, flax meal, pumpkin, hemp
- Sirloin cuts of meat
- Oils: Extra virgin olive oil and corn oil
- Chicken Breast, thighs and legs without skin/ avocado, tofu, tempeh
- Grilled or baked salmon, tuna, Mahi-mahi
- Baked potatoes, oven baked fries, baked pita chips, baked or hand-made pressed tortillas
- Hard cheese- mozzarella, provolone, swiss
- 100% whole grains