Weight Loss: No Fat Is Not Good
You need to cut fat if you want to lose weight, but not all of it. Learn how much fat your body needs and the best sources for supplying it.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
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Many people who want to lose weight know they need to cut fat out of their diets — their weight loss depends on it. But it is important to get the right balance of fat in your diet even while targeting sources of unhealthy fat.
“You need about 25 percent of your calories to come from fat,” says Catherine Bethea Dempsey, RD, LD, research coordinator and clinical dietitian at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “You need the fat for healthy hair, skin, and nails, as well as supporting all the systems in your body.”
Weight Loss: Why the Fat Must Be Trimmed
Twenty-five percent might sound like a lot, but it’s important to remember that fats are very high in calories, so even a small portion packs a significant calorie punch. Eating too much fat not only adds pounds, but ultimately increases your risk of:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Other chronic health concerns
Weight Loss: How to Reduce the Fat
The first step in cutting back on fat in your diet is to keep a food journal that will help you track the foods you eat. Make a note of how much fat they include so that you can identify your personal fat sources. Here are common sources of fat and what you can replace them with:
- Full-fat dairy products:Use low- or non-fat dairy.
- Fried foods:Bake, broil, or steam food instead of frying.
- Fatty cuts of meat:Aim for loin cuts of meat, and chicken without the skin.
- Creamy sauces:Try tomato-based sauces instead.
- Chocolates and ice cream:Choose low-fat or non-fat treats, such as frozen yogurt, and skip fatty toppings like whipped cream.
Red meat is often highlighted as a source of fat. If you are a fan of red meat, you can use leaner cuts of meat, such as rounds or sirloin cuts, trim the fat yourself, or buy pre-packaged lean ground beef that’s 90 percent or more fat-free. You should also start using other lean meats as well, such as lean ground turkey instead of ground beef. Try dishes that are built around chicken breast (no skin) or fish for variety.
Weight Loss: Hidden Sources of Fat
So while you’ve switched from whole milk to skim and you haven’t touched a french fry in months, there may still be unhealthy and high-calorie fats lurking on your plate. Even people with the best intentions can overlook significant sources of fat, says Dempsey. Here are a few examples:
- Olive oil.According to Dempsey, people correctly choose olive oil as a heart healthier fat, and then forget that it is still calorie-laden. Watch portion sizes, she says. This mistake can happen with just about any healthy oil or healthy (but fatty) food, such as avocados and nuts.
- Ground turkey.“A lot of people will purchase ground turkey assuming it’s low in fat, but if you don’t look for the ‘lean’ it’s just like ground beef,” Dempsey says.
- Condiments and spreads.A healthy, low-fat burger or sandwich can become a weight- loss disaster if you add full-fat cheese, mayonnaise, butter, or dressing. Seek out light versions or non-fat toppings such as mustard, ketchup, and veggies.
- Salad toppings.Fresh greens are a great addition to your weight-loss plan. Lean meat, fruit, and chopped veggies are, too, but if you’re trimming the fat, steer clear of nuts, cheese, croutons, fried onions, and full-fat salad dressings. Stick to a low-fat or fat-free dressing on the side.
By policing the fat in your diet, you will gain more control over an important source of calories and get closer to meeting your weight-loss goals.
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