Many diets around are a great way of starting to lose weight, in recent times people have been opting to follow a low-fat variation of a diet. A low fat diet has many advantages, understanding the role that fats play in calorie counting and how much fat you should each day is the place to start.

The Basics of Low Fat Diets

Fat is essential for controlling the inflammation, blood clotting, brain development, energy, healthy skin and hair, and absorption of vitamins A,D,E and K. With all these benefits already it doesn’t sound too bad does it? Fat comes in three forms: unsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fat.

  • Unsaturated fats include fat from olive and vegetable oils, nuts, avocados and fish.
  • Saturated and trans fats are in butter, lard, cream, shortening, margarine, partially hydrogenated oils, coconut and palm oil, chicken skin and fat from meat.
  • Unsaturated fats are healthier than saturated and trans fats because they can actually help prevent heart disease.

Federal dietary guidelines recommend that less than 30 percent of daily calories come from fat and that less than 10 percent come from saturated fat.

Tracking Fat and Calories

In order to successfully follow a low-fat diet, you need to keep track of how many calories you are consuming – keep track of the number of grams of fat you eat and plan the rest of your meals around consuming lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.

  • Low-fat diet for maintenance. Current nutritional guidelines from the NIH suggest that only 20 to 35 percent of your total daily intake should come from fat. For the average 2,000-calorie-a-day maintenance diet, that means about 400 to 700 calories, or 44 to 77 grams of total fat per day. Want to follow a low-fat diet? Aim for the low end of that range, with most of the fat in your diet coming from unsaturated sources. To keep saturated fat to 10 percent of your total intake, limit it to 200 calories or 22 grams of fat per day, taken from your daily fat allowance.
  • Low-fat diet for weight loss. On a weight-loss diet of 1,200 calories, limiting fats to only 20 percent of total daily intake means you can have 240 calories, or 26 grams, of fat each day, with a maximum of 120 calories, or 13 grams, coming from saturated fat. That leaves you nearly 1,000 calories to “spend” on protein and carbohydrates.

While it’s hard to know exactly how many fat grams are in a piece of red meat – you can estimate this by weight of the meat, for packaged foods, the nutritional label tells you everything you need to know, including total fat grams and calories, and the grams and calories of any saturated and trans fat in the food.

Low-Fat Foods you can have

There are the more obvious, in the naturally low-fat foods include fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean proteins. Lean proteins will include the likes of skinless chicken breast, lean ground beef or turkey, pork tenderloin, fish, shellfish, eggs and soy products. Naturally fat-free, low-calorie beverages include water, 100 percent fruit juice, unsweetened tea, black coffee and diet soda.

On the other scale, the foods to avoid which are higher fat foods are ones that are made with a lot of saturated and trans fats such as fast foods, processed foods, snack foods, mayonnaise, creamy salad dressings, whipped cream, gravy made from meat drippings, cream soups, ice cream and chocolate. Milkshakes, blended coffee drinks and alcoholic dessert drinks are examples of beverages that can be high in fat.