Imagine a grilled cheese sandwich that’s loaded with flavor and has no saturated fats, or a gourmet lasagna made with just four basic ingredients. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. The secret is in the recipe. The folks at America’s Test Kitchen are always cooking up innovative ways to help you make food that tastes great and—more importantly—is good for you. Through their website, magazine and cookbooks they’re always testing ways to make your favorite foods healthier while still tasting great.
Food With No Saturated Fat
With the increasing demands of work, school and other outside activities, it can often be difficult to fit clean and healthy meals into our diets. Unfortunately, thanks to the nutritional content of fast and processed foods, this generally means higher amounts of saturated fat. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fats have the ability to raise blood cholesterol, which can lead to a number of health risks, including coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Considering this, it is necessary to include low-saturated-fat foods into your diet as often as possible while avoiding those high in saturated fat.
Lean meats such as chicken and fish are low in saturated fats.
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Meat products generally contain high amounts of saturated fat. However, with the right meat choices, you can use this food source as a healthy way to keep your saturated fat count low. When choosing low-saturated fat meat products, it is necessary to read the pack carefully to determine the fat content. As far as chicken and fish are concerned, most cuts you can buy will be fairly lean. Beef and pork, on the other hand, usually contain a higher fat content. Stick to 90 percent lean cuts and above. Try your best to avoid processed meats, bacon, hot dogs and fried food.
Fruits and Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables contain very low amounts of saturated fats.
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The majority of both fruits and vegetables contain very low amounts of saturated fat. Instead, they are packed with healthy antioxidants and nutrients. Nearly all varieties of fruits and vegetables are solid low-saturated fat choices, including canned, frozen and dried. However, canned fruits packed in syrup should be avoided if possible. In addition, steer clear of vegetables cooked in excessive amounts of sauce and butter, as both of these items are generally high in saturated fat.
Dairy products are another healthy option to consider.
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Dairy products provide another healthy, low-saturated fat content option. Stick to milk products under 1 percent fat. This means you’re going to have to abandon the 2 percent fat milk and whole milk. Avoid hard cheese such as cheddar, Swiss and American, and try to consume only low-fat or skim cheese products. Both yogurt and frozen yogurt are also low in saturated fat, but ice cream and whipped cream should be left out.
Stick to whole wheat or multi-grain sources of bread and pasta.
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Grains cover all sorts of bread, cereal, pasta, rice and beans. To avoid high saturated fat content, stick to whole wheat or multi-grain sources of these products. Oatmeal, sweet potatoes and dried beans are also included in this category. Limit consumption of granola cereals and most store-bought muffins, pancakes and biscuits. The highest saturated fat grains sources include baked goods such as pastries, store-bought crackers and products that contain lard or butter or are made with hydrogenated oils.
Guidelines for a Low Cholesterol, Low Saturated Fat Diet
- Limit total intake of fats and oils.
- Avoid butter, stick margarine, shortening, lard, palm and coconut oils.
- Limit mayonnaise, salad dressings, gravies and sauces, unless they are homemade with low-fat ingredients.
- Limit chocolate.
- Choose low-fat and nonfat products, such as low-fat mayonnaise, low-fat or non-hydrogenated peanut butter, low-fat or fat-free salad dressings and nonfat gravy.
- Use vegetable oil, such as canola or olive oil.
- Look for margarine that does not contain trans fatty acids.
- Use nuts in moderate amounts.
- Read ingredient labels carefully to determine both amount and type of fat present in foods. Limit saturated and trans fats.
- Avoid high-fat processed and convenience foods.
Meats and Meat Alternatives
- Choose fish, chicken, turkey and lean meats.
- Use dried beans, peas, lentils and tofu.
- Limit egg yolks to three to four per week.
- If you eat red meat, limit to no more than three servings per week and choose loin or round cuts.
- Avoid fatty meats, such as bacon, sausage, franks, luncheon meats and ribs.
- Avoid all organ meats, including liver.
- Choose nonfat or low-fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese.
- Most cheeses are high in fat. Choose cheeses made from non-fat milk, such as mozzarella and ricotta cheese.
- Choose light or fat-free cream cheese and sour cream.
- Avoid cream and sauces made with cream.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Use lemon juice, vinegar or “mist” olive oil on vegetables.
- Avoid adding sauces, fat or oil to vegetables.
Breads, Cereals and Grains
- Choose whole-grain breads, cereals, pastas and rice.
- Avoid high-fat snack foods, such as granola, cookies, pies, pastries, doughnuts and croissants.
- Avoid deep fried foods.
- Trim visible fat off meats and remove skin from poultry before cooking.
- Bake, broil, boil, poach or roast poultry, fish and lean meats.
- Drain and discard fat that drains out of meat as you cook it.
- Add little or no fat to foods.
- Use vegetable oil sprays to grease pans for cooking or baking.
- Steam vegetables.
- Use herbs or no-oil marinades to flavor foods.
A guide to low fat foods
Low carb, low fat, and even high fat — there are many dietary approaches a person can take to improve or maintain their health. Eating a low fat diet is a simple way to cut out extra calories.
Doctors may advocate eating a low fat diet because calories from fat are higher per gram than those from protein or carbohydrates.
Some high fat foods — such as cookies, cakes, french fries, and greasy foods — may also have less nutritional value than healthful options such as fruits and vegetables.
Although fat is an essential part of a person’s diet, there are “good fats” and “bad fats.” Knowing the difference can help a person make informed choices about their meals.
In this article, we list some low fat foods and the benefits of a low-fat diet. We also look at a sample mix-and-match meal plan.
Low fat foods list
Low fat foods are those that have 30%Trusted Source of their calories or less from fats. So, if a food contains fewer than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories, it is a low fat food.
To determine if a food is low fat, a person can read its nutrition label.
It is vital to read the part of the label that lists specific values, as many manufacturers label foods as “low fat” despite them having a relatively high fat content.
Examples of low fat foods a person can incorporate into their diet include:
Cereals, grains, and pasta products
- corn or whole wheat tortillas
- baked crackers
- most cold cereals
- noodles, especially whole grain versions
- whole grain bagels
- English muffins
- pita bread
Dairy products can be high in fat, but food manufacturers often offer lower fat versions. These include:
- fat free cheese
- fat free or “skim” milk or yogurt
- light or fat free cream cheese
- low fat cottage cheese, milk, or yogurt
Some nondairy yogurts are also low fat.
- egg whites
- lean cuts of meat
- skinless chicken or turkey breast
- veggie burgers
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are naturally low fat. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned options.
Additional foods that can be a part of a low fat diet include:
- sauces containing skim milk
- vegetable based broth soups
- light salad dressings, or simply lemon juice and balsamic vinegar
When considering a low fat diet, it is important to remember that not all fat types are unhealthful. The key is to eat a varied diet of nutritious, natural foods and avoid those high in saturated or trans fats.
Manufacturers add saturated fats or trans fats to foods to extend their shelf life. These types of fat are also present in fried foods.
These types of fat can increase a person’s low density lipoprotein cholesterol, which, in turn, can increase their riskTrusted Source of heart disease and other health complications.
On the other hand, polyunsaturated — such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids — and monounsaturated fats can be beneficial to the body. These fats are present in nutritious foods such as:
Diets that are very high in fat from processed and fast foods tend to contain less nutritional value than lower fat diets that include a mix of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend the following as part of a healthful eating pattern:
- Dairy products: A person should aim to consume 3 servings of low fat or fat free dairy products per day.
- Fruit: People should try to eat 4 servings of canned, dried, fresh, or frozen fruits each day.
- Oils: Aim for up to 3 tablespoons of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated canola, olive, peanut, safflower, or sesame oils every day.
- Proteins: Try to consume 1–2 servings of eggs, non-fried fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, or skinless turkey or chicken per day.
- Vegetables: Aim to eat 5 servings of canned, dried, fresh, or frozen vegetables each day.
- Whole grains: A person should aim to consume 3–6 servings of grains — such as bread, brown rice, barley, crackers, or oatmeal — every day.
The following meal plan is low in fat:
- Breakfast could comprise oatmeal with honey, frozen blueberries, and raisins, plus a cup of orange juice.
- Lunch could comprise a tuna and cucumber wrap, a boiled egg, and a quarter of a cup of low fat vanilla yogurt.
- Dinner could comprise spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, vegetables, and lean meatballs or a vegetarian alternative.
- Snacks could be carrot sticks with hummus dip or whole grain crackers.
MyPlate.gov also offers samples of 2-week menus of low fat meals.
When preparing meals, a person should be mindful of the amount of oil they use. Cooking the food in a non-stick pan may help reduce the amount necessary.
Adopting a low fat diet can be a positive approach to healthful eating. It is vital to keep eating beneficial fats, such as those from fish, avocado, and seeds.
Eliminating unhealthful fats, however, can have a positive impact on a person’s weight, heart health, and overall well-being.
If a person has questions on the type of diet they should follow for their health, they should talk to their doctor.
What can you eat on a low-carb diet?
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Low-carb diets limit the number of carbohydrates a person eats. Instead of carbs, people focus on eating proteins, healthful fats, and vegetables.
Carbohydrates or carbs are one of three main food types that the body needs to work properly. The other two are protein and fat. Carbs give the body energy. The body breaks carbs down to use immediately or later.
If the body does not need to use the carbs for energy as soon as a person eats them, it stores them in the muscles and liver to use later. However, if the body does not use these stored carbs, the body converts them to fat.
Ten low-carb diet tips
Many people find following a low-carb diet challenging, particularly at the beginning of the diet. The following low-carb diet tips might help people stick to their diet and may help them lose weight successfully.
1. Knowing what foods are low-carb
Low-carb foods include:
- lean meats, such as sirloin, chicken breast, or pork
- leafy green vegetables
- cauliflower and broccoli
- nuts and seeds, including nut butter
- oils, such as coconut oil, olive oil, and rapeseed oil
- some fruit, such as apples, blueberries, and strawberries
- unsweetened dairy products including plain whole milk and plain Greek yogurt
2. Know the carb counts and serving sizes of foods
Most low carb diets only allow for 20 to 50 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day. Because of this, it is essential that people following low-carb diets choose foods that have a lower carb count but a high nutritional value per serving.
The foods in the quantities listed below all contain approximately 15 g of carbs:
- 1 tennis ball sized apple or orange
- 1 cup of berries
- 1 cup of melon cubes
- ½ medium banana
- 2 tablespoons of raisins
- 8 ounces of milk
- 6 ounces of plain yogurt
- ½ cup corn
- ½ cup peas
- ½ cup beans or legumes
- 1 small baked potato
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/3 cup of cooked rice
While the foods listed above all contain roughly equal amounts of carbohydrates, they are not all nutritionally equivalent. The dairy products on the list contain protein and vital nutrients, such as Vitamin D and calcium in addition to the carbohydrate content.
The fruit and vegetables also contain essential vitamins and minerals. Choosing whole-grain varieties of bread and rice will provide more nutrients than white varieties, even though the carb content is similar.
3. Make a meal plan
A meal plan can help make things easier.
Anyone trying to follow a low-carb diet could try mapping out their week and plan all meals before heading to the grocery store.
Planning meals in advance can help people stick to the diet.
Knowing what they are going to eat for lunch and dinner can help a person avoid making unhealthful food choices, such as stopping at a fast food restaurant.
4. Meal prep
Planning is one thing, but preparing meals ahead of time can also help. Meal prep can help a person:
- avoid making unhealthful food choices
- save time during busier times of the week
- save money
Some people like to prepare a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches ahead of time and store the meals in containers, so they are convenient and ready to go. It is possible to freeze some meals too, meaning people can prepare even more food in advance.
Having lots of pre-prepared meals on hand can help people avoid choosing less healthful options.
Popular low-carb meals to prepare in advance include:
- egg muffins
- Greek yogurt bowls
- protein pancakes
- chicken lettuce wraps
- protein and vegetable stir fry with no rice
5. Carry low-carb snacks
Low-carb snack options for between meals include:
- hard boiled eggs
- unsweetened yogurt
- baby or regular carrots
- handful of nuts
It is essential to regulate portion size of any snacks to avoid overeating.
6. Consider carb cycling
Carb cycling involves eating very low-carb foods for a set amount of days, followed by one day of eating higher carb meals. This helps the body avoid fat-burning plateaus that can develop after weeks of low-carb dieting.
Carb cycling is not for everyone, and anyone considering it should talk to their doctor or nutritionist first.
7. Not all carbs are created equal
Carbs come in different forms.
Simple carbs consist of easy to digest sugars. Refined and processed carbs, such as white sugar and white flour, are simple carbs.
People who are starting on a low-carb diet need to think about reducing their intake of refined and processed carbs. Avoiding these carbs will be beneficial for reaching an ideal weight and for health in general.
However, not all simple carbs are created equal. Fruits include fructose, which is a simple carb, but eating fruit is recommended in a low-carb diet, as it is loaded with nutrients and is a whole-food source of carbs.
Complex carbs take longer to digest than simple carbs, as they need to be broken down into a simpler form. Complex carbs are found in more nutrient-rich foods, such as beans, whole-grains, and fiber-rich fruits, such as bananas.
Complex carbs also have the added benefit of making a person feel full faster, which might prevent them from overeating. Complex carbs also make people feel full for longer, which might help them avoid snacking between meals.
8. Be aware of alternatives
Substituting low-carb or no-carb foods for high-carb foods can help reduce carb intake.
Some low-carb substitutions include:
- lettuce leaves instead of taco shells
- portobello mushroom caps instead of buns
- baked butternut squash fries
- eggplant lasagna
- cauliflower pizza crust
- spaghetti squash instead of noodles
- zucchini ribbons instead of pasta
9. Exercise appropriately
Exercise is an important part of overall health. People should avoid a sedentary lifestyle but refrain from excessive exercising.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommend that adults do moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week for a minimum 10 minutes at a time for moderate health benefits. For optimal health benefits, the CDC recommend 300 minutes of exercise. The CDC also suggest that people lift weights or do other strength training exercises to improve overall health.
Those on low-carb diets may want to avoid long periods of intense activity such as distance running. This is because people who are doing a form of exercise that requires extra endurance, such as marathon training, will need extra carbohydrates to fuel their bodies.
10. Use common sense
People should know about potential health risks before starting a low-carb diet.
Short-term health risks caused by a low-carb diet may include:
- high cholesterol
- brain fog
- lack of energy
- bad breath
- reduced athletic performance
Long-term health risks caused by a low-carb diet may include:
- nutritional deficiencies
- loss of bone density
- gastrointestinal problems
Some people should not follow a low-carb diet unless instructed to do so by a doctor. These groups of people include those with kidney disease and teenagers.
Not everyone will benefit from, or should even consider, a low-carb diet. Anyone thinking about doing a low-carb diet should speak with a doctor before starting.
14 Simple Ways to Reduce Saturated Fat
Saturated fat should be avoided because they increase your cholesterol levels.
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
2. Eat more fish and chicken. Substitute ground turkey or chicken for ground beef. Remove the skin from chicken before cooking.
3. Eat leaner cuts of beef and pork, and trim as much visible fat as possible before cooking.
4. Bake, broil, or grill meats; avoid frying. Avoid breaded meats and vegetables.
5. Use fat-free or reduced-fat milk instead of whole milk. Instead of sour cream, try nonfat plain yogurt or a blend of yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese. Use low-fat cheeses.
6. In recipes, use two egg whites instead of one whole egg.
7. Avoid cream and cheese sauces, or make recipes with low-fat milk and cheese.
8. Instead of chips, snack on pretzels or unbuttered popcorn.
9. Limit hydrogenated fats (shortening, lard) and animal fats (butter, cream) if you can. Use liquid oils, particularly canola, olive, safflower, or sunflower.
10. Read the nutrition labels on all products. Many “fat-free” products are very high in carbohydrates, which can raise your triglyceride levels.
11. Compare the fat content of similar products. Do not be misled by terms like “light” and “lite.”
12. When eating in a restaurant, ask that the sauces and dressings be served on the side.
13. Look for hidden fat. For example, refried beans may contain lard, or breakfast cereals may have significant amounts of fat.
14. Try cooking with herbs, spices, lemon juice, etc., instead of butter or margarine.