How Much Fat Should You Eat?

Although there is some controversy over the subject, the most liberal allowance I have read for fat is 30% of your daily calories in fats of all kinds.

That doesn't mean you can pig out on meat, chicken, ice cream, cheese and dairy products, however.

Because every recommendation I have read in the last year states:  Only 10% or less of your calories should be in saturated or hydrogenated fats. And many authorities, such as Dean Ornish, M.D., recommend no saturated fats. In fact, I have repeatedly read that you don't need ANY saturated or hydrogenated fat in our diets.

That's it: 0 grams, 0% of fat needs to come from saturated or hydrogenated fat for a healthy diet. We need polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in our diets. These fats comes from plants. We do not need any saturated fats from animals or any of the food industry's artificially created hydrogenated fats.

Back to the math: If you eat 1800 calories a day, that is 180 calories per day or 20 fat grams or less of saturated or hydrogenated fats.

First choose the number of calories per day and the percentage of your diet that will be fat. Let's say you choose a diet of 20% fat and 1800 calories per day

Convert the fat as follows:
20% of 1800 = 360 fat calories.
There are 9 calories in one gram of fat.
360 divided by 9 = 40 grams of fat.
40 is the maximum number of fat grams that you can eat per day.  Only 20 grams or less should be in saturated or hydrogenated fats.

You choose a diet of 20% fat and 2200 calories per day.
20% of 2200 = 440 fat calories divided by 9 = 49 grams of fat maximum per day. Still only 24.5 grams or less should be in saturated or hydrogenated fats.

When you read the back of the package, pay attention to serving sizes. In my opinion some products, like ice cream, have extremely small serving sizes. If the label says it has only four fat grams per serving but has 10 servings total in the package, it would be wise not to eat the whole package.

This doesn't mean you have to eat 10% of your fat calories in saturated and hydrogenated fat, of course. It means you just don't want to eat more than 10% total in these types of fats. And remember, 35% of the calories from 2% milk come from animal fat.

I personally eat about 2400 calories a day and could go for 27 grams of saturated or hydrogenated fat. I think that is way, way too high, and prefer to spend those fat grams in something that is more healthy. My goal, then, is to eat less than 10 saturated or hydrogenated fat grams per day. I "save" these for a good restaurant meal.

OK for me to lecture. Am I perfect?

I wish.

While I have been writing this article, I have consumed approximately 12 halves of graham crackers of the variety Kroger produces. Now, I consider graham crackers reasonably good for me--at least a decent snack, and certainly 12 halves is not a graham cracker binge.

Do you agree?

According to the label, 12 halves of graham crackers contain 9 grams of fat; 1.5 grams is saturated. Now, partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the fifth ingredient on the box after enriched flour, graham flour, water, and sugar. Since this is the only fat listed in the ingredients, I assume I ate 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 7.5 grams of essentially the same thing in hydrogenated fat.

So, graham crackers are not the healthy snack I have assumed them to be. And I have blown the  unhealthy fat I allow myself for the entire day while nibbling away and writing about how unhealthy hydrogenated and saturated fats are!!!

Did those crackers taste that good? No, they did not. I just wanted to munch and thought they were reasonably healthy until I read that label.

Would someone unfamiliar with hydrogenated fat read the label and still think they were eating healthy? Probably.

As for me, I had rather have had part of a chocolate bar. We might be better off eating less of what we really want to eat than nibbling on something we think is good for us like 12 graham crackers.

Registered dietitian Ann Litt says, "I'd rather have people satisfy themselves with a couple of Oreos than go an a binge with a box of Snack Wells."

Now I'm thinking... The FDA should buck the food industry and require labels to tell Americans the whole fat story, in my opinion. Where is that congressman's address, anyway? Hand it over, please.

But why is Kroger waiting for FDA? There is no reason Kroger and other food manufacturers and distributors could not voluntarily tell us the whole story here, is there? They don't have to wait for FDA to come down on them to tell us how much hydrogenated fat is in their products, do they?

So, go ahead, hand me Kroger's address, too,  while you're at it.

Send feedback, pose or answer questions about nutrition: Contact

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