Foods like cheese, butter, sausage, and desserts may taste good to you, but they can have a lot of saturated fat. Eating too much of this unhealthy fat could lead to high cholesterol and heart disease.
Start with small changes first. Use heart-healthy olive or canola oil instead of butter for cooking. Drink fat-free or low-fat milk instead of 2% milk or whole milk. Pick leaner cuts of meat.
Use this topic as a guide for making healthy choices.
How can you make healthier choices?
Use the following chart as a guide.
Limit foods that are high in unhealthy fats
Make healthier choices
Meat, poultry, and fish
Regular ground beef, fatty or highly marbled cuts, spare ribs, organ meat, poultry with skin, fried chicken, fried fish, fried shellfish, lunch meat, bologna, salami, sausage, hot dogs
Extra-lean ground beef (97% lean), ground turkey breast (without skin added), meats with fat trimmed off before cooking, skinless chicken, low-fat or fat-free lunch meats, baked fish
Whole milk and 2% milk; whole-milk yogurt, most cheeses, and cream cheese; whole-milk cottage cheese, sour cream, and ice cream; cream; half-and-half; whipping cream; nondairy creamer; whipped topping
Low-fat (1%) or fat-free milk and cheeses, low-fat or nonfat yogurt
Fats and oils
Coconut oil, palm oil, butter, lard, shortening, bacon and bacon fat, stick margarine, peanut butter that has been hydrogenated (the no-stir kind)
Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, soft margarines with no trans fats and no more than one-third of the total fat from saturated fat, natural peanut butter that has not been hydrogenated
Breads and cereals
Breads in which fat or butter is a major ingredient; most granolas (unless fat-free or low-fat); high-fat crackers; store-bought pastries and muffins
Regular breads, cereals, rice, corn tortillas, pasta, and low-fat crackers. Choose whole grains as much as possible.
Fruits and vegetables
Fried vegetables; coconut; vegetables cooked with butter, cheese, or cream sauce
All fruits and vegetables that do not have added fat
Sweets and desserts
Ice cream; store-bought pies, cakes, doughnuts, and cookies made with coconut oil, palm oil, or hydrogenated oil; chocolate candy
Fruit; frozen yogurt; low-fat or nonfat versions of treats such as ice cream; cakes and cookies made with unsaturated fats and/or those made with cocoa powder
Tips for healthier meals
Try some of these ideas:
- Fill up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Think of meat as a side dish instead of as the main part of your meal.
- Try main dishes that use whole wheat pasta, brown rice, dried beans, or vegetables.
- Use cooking methods with little or no fat, such as broiling, steaming, or grilling. Use cooking spray instead of oil. If you use oil, use a monounsaturated oil, such as canola or olive oil.
- Trim fat from meats before you cook them. Drain off fat after you brown the meat or while you are roasting it.
- Chill soups and stews after you cook them so that you can skim off the fat after it gets hard.
- To get more omega-3 fatty acids, have fish twice a week. Add ground flaxseed to cereal, soups, and smoothies. Sprinkle walnuts on salads.
- When you bake muffins or breads, replace part of the fat ingredient (oil, butter, margarine) with applesauce, or use canola oil instead of butter or shortening.
- Read food labels on canned, bottled, or packaged foods. Choose those with little saturated fat and no trans fat.
If you eat out often, it may be hard to avoid unhealthy fats. Try these tips:
- Order foods that are broiled or poached rather than fried or breaded. Restaurants often use trans fats (hydrogenated oils) for frying foods.
- Cut back on the amount of butter or margarine that you use on bread. Use small amounts of olive oil instead.
- Order sauces, gravies, and salad dressings on the side, and use only a little.
- When you order pasta, choose tomato sauce rather than cream sauce.
- Ask for salsa with a baked potato instead of sour cream, butter, cheese, or bacon.
- Don't upgrade your meal to a larger size.
- Watch portion sizes. Share an entree, or take part of your food home to eat as another meal. Share appetizers and desserts.
Sometimes a fat-free food isn't the best choice. Fat-free cookies, candies, chips, and frozen treats can still be high in sugar and calories. Some fat-free foods have more calories than regular ones. Eat fat-free foods in moderation, as you would other foods.