Growing up with the “No Fat”, “Low Fat”, “Fat makes you fat” mentality, has created a fear of fat that’s seen in the way many of us eat today. You may find yourself saying “no” to fats and missing out on healthy foods that may actually help you lose weight and maintain weight loss.
A nutritious eating plan includes healthy fats. The goal is for 20% to 35% of your total daily calories to come from healthy unsaturated fats and only 10% or less of your total daily calories from saturated fats, like processed and fast foods.
Healthy fats, or unsaturated fat, are found in whole foods. Strategically including healthy fats in your diet promotes better brain function, reduces inflammation, and allows vitamin absorption. Legumes, tree nuts, pumpkin seeds, nut butters, and plant oils, such as olive and sesame, are healthy fats. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and are found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, plant oils, and some fortified foods like eggs. These foods can help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing inflammation, are less likely to be stored in fat tissue, and are more likely to be taken in directly by your liver for immediate use as energy, promoting increased calorie burning. It has also been noted that omega-3s may prevent cortisol levels from increasing during chronic stress allowing your body to stay balanced.
The fats to limit in your diet are saturated fats, which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, and promote inflammation. These fats are primarily found in fast foods and processed foods, and tend to be more solid at room temperature. Animal products like beef, pork, and high-fat dairy, like butter, margarine, cream, and cheese tend to have high amounts of saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fats have been shown to aid in inflammation. Inflammation and poor gut health are linked to many diseases, leaky gut syndrome, malabsorption of nutrients, poor hormone function, and loss of appetite cues.
Adding a small amount of healthy fat to every meal or snack helps you to feel satisfied and full.
For instance, eating celery sticks when your energy is low just isn’t going to give us a boost or keep you satisfied until dinner. Now consider the same celery sticks, but with two tablespoons of your favorite nut butter or hummus. Much better, right? The added healthy fat gives you the energy that will get you through the rest of the day and the mental stamina to last until dinner.
Food choices that have minimal ingredients are the best option. Whole foods are best, but if you do choose a processed food, stick to the 5 ingredient rule: If it has more than 5 ingredients, move on.
Ever wonder why salad dressing is such a big business with rows of options in your grocery store? The reason it’s encouraged to load up your greens with salad dressing is this…You need dietary fat to absorb vital vitamins and minerals. Your intestine absorbs fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) when paired with a fat source. Not absorbing these vitamins can lead to deficiencies and heighten your risk of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. But many dressings are loaded with saturated fats.
The best option to top your salad with is a vinaigrette or other oil-based dressing. There are many non-dairy alternatives that use olive or avocado oil instead of cream. And of course Portions, Portions, Portions! Try using just 2 tablespoons of dressing and allow your salad to sit for a few minutes before you dig in. This allows the dressing to soften some of those greens; less is more.
Note: a tablespoon of fat can be measured in comparison to your thumb, from the knuckle to the end.
5 healthy fats to have on hand for snacks
1- Nuts and seeds
Nuts: Almonds, Peanuts, Macadamia, Hazelnuts, Walnuts
Seeds: Pumpkin, Sesame, sunflower, Chia seeds
Snack idea: nuts, seeds, and berries
How much? 1 oz = ¼ cup; less than a handful
Snack idea: Mashed avocado and veggies, or avocado toast
How much? ½ avocado
Tip: after you slice your avocado, store the side with the seed covered with plastic or just wrapped in a napkin in your fridge for your next meal.
3- Nut Butters
Snack idea: Nut butter and carrots or strawberries
How much? 1-2 level Tablespoons, 2 Tablespoons = 1 thumb
Tip: Actually measure this for a few snacks with a level measuring spoon. 1 heaping tablespoon can easily equal 3-4 tablespoons.
Eat the whole thing! The egg yolk actually contains fat and several important nutrients such as vitamin D, B, choline, and lutein.
Snack idea: hard-boiled eggs So easy to have on hand and just eat a couple for a quick snack.
How much? 2 whole eggs
Healthy fat and fiber!
Snack idea: Olives on the go, and sweet red pepper
How much? ¼ cup or roughly 16 olives
6- Tuna, Salmon, Sardines
Snack Idea: lettuce wraps with on-the-go salmon packs or add a squeeze of lemon and eat right out of the package!
How much? 2-4 oz or the palm of your hand