Diet: Low Fat Diets (cont.)

How Much Fat Should I Eat?

The dietary reference intake for fat in adults is 20%-35% of total daily calories from fat. That's about 44 grams of fat or less a day if you eat 2,000 calories a day.

Recently, health experts have started to recommend that people eliminate another type of fat called trans fat from their diet. This fat, formed during a process called hydrogenation, coverts a relatively healthy unsaturated liquid fat, like corn oil into a solid one. Although this process gives a food longer shelf life it also makes the fats act like saturated fat in our bodies, and may be worse when it comes to causing heart disease.

Health experts recommend removing as much trans fat from your diet as possible.

How Can I Know How Much Fat I am Eating?

Learn about the foods you eat. Fat and calorie listings for individual foods can be found in nutrition books at your local library and on food packages.

Read nutrition labels on food packages. Nutrition labels show the number of grams of fat per serving. They also show the daily percentage of fat provided in each serving. In other words, if the daily percentage of fat per serving is 18%, each serving provides 18% of the total fat you should eat for the day. Choose a brand that has a lower fat percentage. (The daily percentage value is based on a number of calories listed on the nutrition label, usually 2,000. Your calorie needs may be higher or lower.)

More and more food labels are starting to include trans fats. If the amount of trans fats is not included on the label, you can estimate the amount by adding up the total amount of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fat. If that's less than the total fat on the package, the difference is trans fat.

Where Do I Start?

  • Eat a variety of lower-fat foods to get all the nutrients you need.
  • Watch your calorie intake. Remember, "low fat" does not always mean "low calorie."
  • Eat plenty of plant-based foods (such as grain products, fruits and vegetables) and a moderate amount of animal-based foods (meat and dairy products) to help control your fat, cholesterol and calorie intake.
  • Increase your physical activity to improve heart health and lose excess body fat.

What Goals Should I Try to Meet?

  • Decrease the total amount of fat you eat to 20%-35% or less of your total daily calories. For a person eating 2,000 calories a day, this would be 44-77 grams of fat or less per day.
  • Limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) or less per day.
  • Decrease saturated fat (animal fat, butter, coconut and palm oils) to less than 10% of your total calories per day. For a person eating 2000 calories a day, this would be 22 grams of saturated fat or less per day.