Nutrition numbers revealed: fat intake

How much fat should we really be eating?  Low-fat, fat-free, a lot of fat — it can be confusing.

Well, it actually falls somewhere in the middle.  Calories from fat should be 25-35 percent of total calories for the day.  Here’s an example:  2000 kcals x 30% = 600 kcals which gives 67 grams of fat/day (9 grams of fat per calorie).

Recommended daily intakes


Recommended intake 1,500 calories 2,000 calories
Total fat 25-35% calories 41-58 grams 55-77 grams
Saturated fat <7% calories <11 grams <15 grams
Trans fat <1% calories 0-1.5 grams 0-2 grams
Polyunsaturated fat Up to 10% calories <16 grams <22 grams
Monounsaturated fat Up to 20% calories <33 grams <44 grams

This amount may need to be adjusted for people with certain health conditions.  Overall, I usually recommend for most individuals to stay on the higher end of that range because what really matters is the type of fat.  Which fats should we be eating?  Think Mediterranean: omega 3’s and monounsaturated fats, which are the healthy types of fat.  Fish, olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nuts, seeds—these are the fats that we want to eat.

So, what are the unhealthy fats that raise our cholesterol and contribute to heart disease?  Saturated and trans fats.  Where do we find these?  Red meat, poultry skin, butter, whole milk, 2% milk, ice cream, palm and coconut oils are sources of saturated fat.  Hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, shortening, deep-fried foods and store-bought baked goods are sources of trans fat.  These are the fats we want to limit in our diet.

Some practical tips:

  • Use olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
  • Eat less red meat, poultry skin and fried food.
  • Aim to eat fish and seafood 2-3 times a week.
  • Choose low-fat dairy (skim/1% milk, nonfat yogurt, low-fat cheese)
  • Eat sweets sparingly — these foods are generally high in saturated and trans fat.
  • Snack on small amounts of nuts (1/4 cup).

A variety of online resources are available to look up the fat content of individual foods, including