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Six Week Diet Turnaround: Choose Healthy Fats

Week Four


Updated February 04, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

More About Choosing Healthy Fats

Red meat is high in saturated fats, especially the fattier cuts of meat and ground beef. Eggs, dairy products like cream, whole milk and cheese, tropical oils and coconut oil are also high in saturated fats.

These aren't "bad foods," but you need to watch how much you're eating of these products. Processed lunch meats, hot dogs, sausages and bacon are very high in saturated fats (and they contain chemicals that are bad for you), and should be avoided.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce your consumption of saturated fats:

  • Choose non-fat or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese every day.
  • Trim fat from red meats before cooking or choose lean cuts of meat.
  • Eat red meat just two or three times each week.
  • Remember that one serving of red meat should be about the size of a deck of cards.
  • Choose poultry (remove the skin), and fish more often. Bake, grill or broil poultry and fish, but don't fry them.
  • Avoid foods that are battered and fried. They're high in calories and bad fats.
  • Eat more legumes like dry beans, soy and lentils. They contain lots of protein and fiber, and no saturated fat.

Trans fats can be avoided by choosing margarine that is not made with trans fats (read the Nutrition Facts label -- it should show zero servings of trans-fat and the ingredients should not list "partially hydrogenated oils." You should also avoid the highly processed foods like potato chips, tortilla chips and cheese snacks that are fried in trans fats, or other snack items baked with trans fats. Many of those snack items are high in sugar, so you gave them up in week two.

Olive oil is a well-known source of monounsaturated fatty acid and is a main component of the Mediterranean diet, which is associated with good health. Extra virgin olive oil is a good choice because it also contains phytochemicals called polyphenols that are beneficial for your body.

Canola oil, nuts, and avocados also contain some monounsaturated fats. Canola has a light flavor so it works well for cooking and baking. Nuts are also rich in protein and help to keep you feeling full between meals. Here are some ideas for increasing the monounsaturated fats in your diet:

  • Top a salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Drizzle olive oil on your favorite vegetables.
  • Add slices of avocado to salads and sandwiches.
  • Enjoy a handful of nuts as a mid-meal snack.
  • Add chopped nuts to a bowl of oatmeal, to your salad, or on top of a vegetable side dish.

There are two types of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are found in fish, chia seeds, flax, soy, walnuts and canola oil. Omega-6 fats are found in varying amounts in nuts, seeds, grains and vegetable oils. Most red meat is low in polyunsaturated fats, but animals raised on grass instead of corn-based feeds have meat that has more polyunsaturated fats and lower in fat in general.

You're probably already eating plenty of the omega-6 fats, unless you're eating a low-fat diet. The omega-6 fatty acids are common in a typical Western diet (linoleic acid in vegetable oil and conjugated linoleic acid in milk and meat), but the omega-3 fatty acids are often deficient. Many experts believe that eating a diet with too many omega-6 fats and too few omega-3 fats increases your risk for inflammation and chronic disease. You can correct that imbalance that by choosing more omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Choose canola oil instead of corn oil or safflower oil for cooking and baking.
  • Sprinkle milled flax seeds on your salads.
  • Take a tablespoon of flax seed oil as a daily supplement.
  • Eat fish two or three times per week. Salmon, tuna, and trout are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Soy is rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Try tofu in a stir-fry.
  • Enjoy walnuts or pumpkin seeds as snacks. Both contain substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Your Assignments This Week

So this week you're going to focus on two things -- reduce the bad fats and increase the good fats. Are you still using your diary? Take a look at the fats in your diet. For this week's assignment, I want you to reduce the bad fats and replace them with good fats.

Choose a goal this week that works for you. Here are two examples:

I will eat fish, skinless chicken or a vegetarian meal instead of my usual fatty red meat or three meals this week. Or four meals. Or five meals.

I will eat one ounce of nuts as a snack three days this week. Or four. Or all of them.

Your next lesson will help you learn more about whole grains and why they're so good for you.

Fats Quiz

Think you got it all down? Take this quiz to make sure you are ready to move on to lesson five next week.

Related Reading


"Dietary Guidelines for Americans." United States Department of Health and Human Services. January, 2005

"United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference." USDA Agricultural Research Service. March 20, 2007.

"Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids." Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. September 05, 2002.

Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Fourth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Pub Co. 2005.

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