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Alternatives to high-fat foods

Too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease. Learn how to protect your heart and your health by switching to low-fat versions of your favorite foods.

You need some fat for energy and to help absorb nutrients, but it’s important that you choose wisely. Some fats, especially trans fats and saturated fats, can raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). That’s why a diet low in these fats is best.

These tips from the AHA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help you make the switch:

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are not only low in fat, but they can also help fill you up and fend off cravings for higher-fat foods. The recommended amount of fruits and vegetables varies depending on age, sex and level of physical activity. Visit www.choosemyplate.gov to learn more.

Read labels. Look for the terms “low-fat” or “lean” on the foods you buy and always check the nutrition labels. When any of the following are among the first of several ingredients listed, the food probably has a fair amount of trans or saturated fat: butter, partially hydrogenated oil, coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, meat fat, egg yolks, whole-milk solids, cream or cheese.

Choose low-fat alternatives to old favorites. When buying dairy products:

  • Look for low-fat or nonfat milk, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream and yogurt.
  • Use egg yolks and whole eggs in moderation. Consider using more egg whites or egg substitutes, which contain no cholesterol and little or no fat.

When buying meat, fish and poultry:

  • Choose leaner meats, skinless poultry and fish. Some fish, such as salmon or tuna, contain omega-3 fatty acids that may offer protection from heart disease.
  • Limit high-fat, processed meats such as cold cuts. Or try the lower-fat varieties.
  • Trim visible fat away from meat or poultry before cooking.

When buying oils and butter:

  • Choose heart-healthy vegetable oils and limit solid fats such as butter, stick margarine and partially hydrogenated shortenings.
  • Look for oils with 2 grams or less of saturated fat per tablespoon, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean and olive oils.

Lighten up in the kitchen. Use cooking methods that require little or no added fat. You might try broiling, grilling, roasting, stewing, steaming or stir-frying. For added flavor, cook foods with herbs or juice instead of butter or oil.

Talk to your doctor for more tips on reducing the unhealthy fats in your diet.

reviewed 6/14/2013

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