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GET REAL GUIDE to Healthy Fat

February 15, 2016
Get real guide to healthy fat image

Growing up in the fat-phobic 90’s our house was full of “low-fat” products. Until I learned more about nutrition, I always thought “low-fat”was the way to go. Boy, was I wrong.

That said, too much fat (even of the healthy variety) isn’t good for you, either.

Let’s get real, understanding how much healthy fat to eat is confusing!

Let me help you understand why fat is important, which are the healthiest sources and how to calculate how much fat is right for your body.

So, why is fat important? sources: 1,2.

Fat is…

  • Essential for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K & E
  • Crucial for brain development, blood clotting and regulating inflammation
  • Responsible for healthy cell membranes
  • Needed to regulate sex hormones
  • Protective of your organs
  • Insulating and helps keep you warm
  • A source of energy

Some examples of healthy fat include:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Organic butter or ghee from grass-fed cows
  • Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Oily, wild caught fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.)
  • Grass-fed red meat
  • Egg yolks from pasture raised chickens (seriously, not eating the yolk is a travesty)

extra virgin olive oil is a healthy fat image

 

When I first started eating a modified paleo diet, I was all about the fat. My mantra might as well have been “another tablespoon of ghee, don’t mind if I do!”

There’s no doubt in my mind that healthy fat is essential for optimal health. However, that’s only true when it’s eaten in the right proportion.There is such a thing as too much healthy fat.

Nutrition is highly personalized. However, most people would not benefit from a diet with more than 60% of its calories from fat (no matter how “healthy” they are). At 9 calories a gram, fat is extremely nutrient dense.

Let me show you how you’d calculate how many grams of healthy fat you should include in your diet using me as an example.

For the record, I don’t count calories, nor do I encourage clients to do so. To me, counting calories feels sad and restrictive. But to understand my recommendation, calories are relevant to the discussion.

Here’s my breakdown:

Age: 27 Height: 5’4 Weight: 120 Activity: low activity (<– keeping it real lol)

To maintain my weight, I need to eat about 1800 calories everyday.

Most people do great with at least 25% and no more than 50-60% of their calories coming from healthy fats.

From experience, I know I benefit ( feel energized, good digestion) from a moderately high fat intake so let’s say I want to get 40% of my total calories from fat, or around 720 calories (40% of 1800). I think you’ll be surprised how little fat that actually looks like, especially since I cook all my own meals.

Using the nifty nutrition software I use for my clients, I entered in my information (age, weight, activity level) and the meal plan below. Sources of healthy fat are bolded.

  • Breakfast:
    • 1 Banana with 1 tbsp almond butter and 2 poached eggs
  • Lunch:
    • Grilled chicken breast, 1 sliced apple and 1 cup arugula with
    • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 squeeze of lemon juice
  • Snack:
    • 1 small/medium avocado for guacamole smashed with salt and pepper
    • 1 diced bell pepper for dipping
    • 1 cup blueberries
  • Dinner:
    • 4 oz. wild salmon grilled with 1/2 tablespoon ghee, 1 cup steamed broccoli, 1-cup brown rice with 1/2 tablespoon of ghee, salt & pepper.
    • 6 oz. red wine (1.5 servings)

Entered into the computer, it looks like this:

Healthy Fats Meal Plan image

Now, when I select for how much fat is in the day, I see what the primary sources are:

Sources of healthy fat image

 

And how many calories came from fat:

Actual Day: 80.45 grams * 9 calories/ gram = 724.05 calories

Ideal Intake for Anna: 720 calories

How many calories from fat image

I can also go in and see which different kinds of fat I ate (unsaturated, saturated, omega-3s, omega-6s) because my nutrition software is amazing! Interested in learning more about omega-3 vs. 6? click here.

 In order to avoid counting calories or doing a food diary, I can take this information and see what it looks like generally in real food.

 I achieve my goal by eating the following servings per day:

-2 servings of healthy fat rich protein (salmon, steak, trout &  tuna)

-2 tablespoons of added cooking oil (ghee, olive oil, coconut oil & butter)

-1 tablespoon of nuts/seed butter (almond, sunflower seed & peanut)

-1 small avocado (or  1/4 cup nuts or seeds like walnuts, pistachios & almonds)

avocado is a healthy fat image

So how can you do something similar at home?

Enter your information into the body mass index and see how many calories you need a day.

Now, most people do great with 25% of their calories coming from healthy fat, 25% from protein and 50% from carbohydrates.

However, if you get cold easily, are recovering from an injury or illness like hypothalamic amenorrhea, are prone to anxiety, are extremely active or have a lot of stress in your life, you might want to try eating a little bit more fat and protein (<– that does not include chips, chocolate or processed foods full of trans fats 😆 )

In order to avoid counting calories, see what that looks like in real food so you have a general idea of what a balanced day looks like for you.

Example Case Study

Let’s say you need to eat 2,000 calories a day and you want 25% of your calories to come from fat (500 calories)

That’s about…

1 avocado, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 oz. of salmon

OR

1/4 cup of nuts, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil & 1 tablespoon of butter

OR

2 tablespoons almond butter, 2 eggs, 3 oz. skirt steak cooked in 1 tablespoon ghee

I was able to calculate the above combinations by using the estimates below. Please note, there will likely be slight discrepancies in calories with different nutrition software or tracking programs.

Calorie Estimates From Healthy Fat:

  • 1 tablespoon of cooking fat: 100-120 calories (out of 100-120 total)
  • 1 small avocado: 202.5 calories from fat (out of 250 total)
  • 1/4 cup of almonds: 159 calories from fat (out of 205)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut/nut/seed butter: 85 calories (out of 100)
  • 2 eggs: about 90 calories from fat (out of 142)
  • 4 oz. salmon: about 45 calories from fat (out of 169)
  • 3 oz. skirt steak: 90 calories from fat (out of 187)

If this feels confusing, there are plenty of nutrition calculators where you enter what you eat and it can tell you how much fat ( and other nutrients) you’re eating.

Join the conversation!

Anna Walker signature image

What are your favorite sources of healthy fat? Is there a nutrition calculator App you like?

 

 

 

 

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12 Comments

  • Reply Ashley @ A Lady Goes West February 15, 2016 at 8:30 am

    This is SUCH a great post, Anna. Long live the healthy fats — eaten in the right amount of course. :) Thanks!
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Valentine’s Day weekend in the Bay Area, a birthday and a concertMy Profile

    • Reply Anna February 15, 2016 at 8:47 am

      So glad you liked it, Ashley! Happy Monday ?

  • Reply Sandra February 15, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Great post today. Your examples of what to eat at each percentage level really helped.

    • Reply Anna February 15, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Thanks, Sandra ?

  • Reply Joanne February 15, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    When I need some control I use My Fitness Pal. One of the options is to show nutritional breakdowns in pie chart form daily or weekly. Easy-Peasy to stay on track.

    • Reply Anna February 15, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      I’ve heard great things about my fitness pal. I’ll have to check it out :) thanks, Joanne!

  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors February 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    I so love this! I was just listening to a podcast that made me go omg I’m eating too much fat right now and need to check myself. This was exactly what I needed as the reminder!! Thanks Anna this was a great informative post and I’m definitely going to track things for a few days!!

    • Reply Anna February 15, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      I’m so happy this was helpful, Sam! Thanks for reading

  • Reply Kris | iheartwellness.com February 16, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Thank You for this post!!!

    I was that girl when I started on a paleo-ish diet to eat an abundant amount of coconut oil….and avocado…..I felt heavy. LOL. I never gained, but I felt heavy.

    So I do still eat a lot of good healthy fats, but I have lowered it.

    I’m so happy to see all that healthy fats do for our amazing vitality and health here on your list!!! I have noticed more of a balanced feeling since I’ve allowed fats into my diet in a loving way : )

    Keep inspiring Anna!!

    xxoo
    Kris

    • Reply Anna February 16, 2016 at 3:48 pm

      So happy to hear that, Kris! It’s all about what works for your body and I love that you were able to make adjustments to feel your best ?

  • Reply jm February 22, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Great suggestions on how some fat is good for oneself and how to manage. Keep the great information coming. jm

    • Reply Anna February 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Thank you! ?

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