We have been inundated with the term ‘fat free’ in the media, at the grocery store and in health magazines, leading us to believe that going fat free is the healthy route. Truth is, once fat is removed chemicals, sugars, refined carbohydrates and fillers are added to replace the flavour the fat once provided. Consuming fat is OK, even healthy, as long as you know the facts on fat and can distinguish the good from the bad and the ugly!
What does Fat-Free Mean
Fat free does not mean calorie free, nor does it mean eat as much as you like, or that this product is healthier than the full fat version. What is does mean is that the food has less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. It will generally contain fewer calories and can be used to replace higher fat choices, but using fat free foods as a license to eat more, will usually not work. The obesity rates for Americans has doubled in the last 20 years, the same time frame in which we have had this must eat ‘fat free’ mentality. Clearly, fat free isn’t working!
How Much Fat is OK
A healthy diet allows for 30% of your daily calories to come from fat. For the average person consuming 2000 calories per day, this would mean 600 calories or 66 grams of that can come from fat and still be a healthy diet (1 gram of fat = 9 calories). The key is to eat more good fats and less bad fats.
Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they reduce your risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and improve overall health.
Good monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, avocados, olives, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts, peanut butter. Good polyunsaturated fats are soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, soymilk and tofu.
Saturated fats and trans fats are known as the “bad fats” as they lead to disease, increased weight and poor health. Saturated fats and trans fats tend to be solid at room temperature like butter or margarine, while the good fats tend to be liquid like olive oil.
Examples of saturated fats that should be consumed in moderation, if not avoided, include high fat cuts of meat like beef, lamb or pork, chicken with the skin on, whole fat milk and cream, butter, ice cream, palm and coconut oil, and lard.
Trans fats are just plain ugly and should not be a part of your diet as they contribute to major health problems from heart disease, weight gain, and clogged arteries to cancer. A trans fat is a normal fat molecule that has been deformed during a process called hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil, which is very good for food manufacturers but very bad for your health.
The primary source of trans fats in our diet comes from commercially-prepared baked goods and snack foods that have found their way to pantries and kids school lunches. Anything with the term “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients list, even if the food claims to be trans fat free, is never a healthy option. Trans fats can be hiding in the ‘healthy muffin’, the ‘whole grain’ cookie and even in some brands of vitamins, make sure you read your labels.
Trans fat foods to avoid include commercially baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes and pizza dough, in packaged snacks like crackers, popcorn, chips, cake mixes, pancake mixes and chocolate drink mixes, in fried foods such as french fries, chicken nuggets and breaded fish and in candy bars.
Simple Ways to Eat More With Less
- Use olive oil in place of butter
- Eat a handful of almonds in place of cookies
- Add good fats to your salads like olives, avocados & seeds
- Top salads with rice wine vinegar in place of prepared dressing
- Serve Omega 3 rich salmon or tuna in place of red meat
- Choose beans and legumes to thicken chili and soups in place of ground meat
- Enjoy raw or roasted veggies in place of deep fried
- Bake whole grain, fruit filled snacks instead of buying packaged
- Make your own breaded fish and chicken nuggets and bake instead of fry
- Find healthy alternatives to salty, crunchy snacks – try kale chips or roasted chick pea’s
Choose good fats more often, read ingredient lists carefully when considering choosing a fat free option and avoid the ugly trans fats always!
*Image courtesy of dusky/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net