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.

Options for replacing unhealthy fats
Food group 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

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

Dairy products

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

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

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.

Restaurant meals

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.

Fat-free foods

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.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O’Brien, MS, RD, CDE – Certified Diabetes Educator

Current as ofMay 4, 2017