NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Living Low-Fat

Living Low-Fat

We need fat for energy, for carrying fat-soluble vitamins, and to provide the essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t make. Fat stays in our stomachs longer than carbohydrate or protein and helps you feel satisfied after you’ve eaten a meal. It also enhances the flavor, texture, and smell of some foods.

However, eating too much fat can increase your risk for heart disease, obesity, and certain types of cancer. It also can interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications. Also, since fat contains twice as many calories by weight as carbohydrate or protein, a high fat diet is usually high in calories and can increase the risk of becoming overweight and obese. Nutritionists recommend that we limit fat intake to 30 percent or less of our daily caloric intake.

Start with your shopping list when aiming for low-fat results.

Use the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels to select lower-fat foods: “fat-free” means less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.   “Low-fat” has 3 grams of fat or less per serving. “Reduced fat” or “less fat” has at least 25% less fat per serving than a standard serving of the regular food. “Light” foods contain one-third fewer calories or 50% less fat per serving than a standard serving of the regular food.

• Switch to 1% or fat-free milk. Select lower fat cheese, particularly those made from part-skim milk such as low-fat or fat-free mozzarella, ricotta, or cream cheese.

• Choose more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grain foods, and fish.

• Select lean cuts of beef, pork, lamb and skinless poultry. Loin and round cuts have less fat. Trim all visible fat before cooking.

• Choose low-fat or non-fat versions of your favorite salad dressings, mayonnaise, yogurt, and sour cream.

• Choose low-fat or lite tub margarine instead of butter or stick margarine. Even low-fat or lite margarines are a concentrated source of fat so use them in moderation.

• Buy fewer high-fat snack foods and desserts. Try fresh fruits and vegetables, unbuttered popcorn, pretzels instead of chips, and gingersnaps instead of chocolate chip cookies.

When ready to start preparing those foods from your shopping list, use low-fat cooking methods: broil, steam, roast, bake, microwave, grill, braise, boil, simmer, poach, stir-fry.• Limit high-fat cooking methods such as frying, sautéing, basting with fat, and cooking in fatty sauces and gravies.

• Use herbs, spices, marinades, salsa, flavored vinegars, and fat-free salad dressing, rather than butter, margarine, or oil to add flavor to foods.

• Chill soups and stews and skim off the fat before serving.

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