Happy Fat Tuesday! Today kicks off the annual Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, but since I’m not there I figured I’d take this opportunity to discuss the topic at hand and clear up some common confusion related to fats. You already know what a huge fan I am of using the palm/fist method when planning meals; That is to eat a lean protein the size of your open palm (minus fingers) along with a complex carbohydrate the size of your clenched fist 5-6 times per day. So where does that leave fats? I’m so glad you asked!
To make it easy, just use the acronym F.A.T.
F- FIGURE IT OUT: As a general rule, choose meals that are made up of 30% or less fat. Looking at the nutrition label on any given food is an easy way to do this. It only takes is a little simple math. Here’s an example using a single serving of edamame.
2.5 g fat
9 g carbs
8 g protein
(Step 1) Each gram of fat contains 9 calories. Take the amount of fat listed and multiply it by 9…
2.5 x 9 = 22.5
(Step 2) 22.5 out of the entire 90 calories comes from fat. What percentage of the food then comes from fat? Divide the fat calories by the total calories…
22.5 / 90 = .25
(Step 3) Scoot the decimal 2 places to the right…
Wallah! 25% of this food comes from fat.
*You can do the same thing for the carbs (4 cal/g) and protein (4 cal/g) to figure out the ratio of all macronutrients in this food. If you did that, you’ll see that edamame has a 40/35/25 ratio (carbs/proteins/fats). It’s a complete meal all by itself as it contains complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy unsaturated fats all in one!
A- ADJUST AS NEEDED: One thing I commonly see is people trying to go super “low-fat”. This can ultimately result in a lack of energy, inefficient workouts, and stalled progress. Subsisting on fat free foods is not the key to obtaining a well-toned physique. Trying to do this will only deter your progress and leave you feeling deprived. Nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive /coconut /almond /canola /flaxseed oils, all natural nut butters, and cold water fish such as salmon provide a great source of heart healthy fats. If you don’t feel satisfied after you’ve just eaten or feel drained all the time, this could be a sign of having too little fat in your diet. Alternatively, if your progress has stalled, you may be getting too much fat. Don’t calorie count yourself to death, but if you’re not seeing the progress you want, it might be time to take a closer look and see exactly what type of diet you’re consuming. As a general rule I recommend…
-40/40/20 diet for those looking to lose fat
-40/30/30 or 50/30/20 diet for those looking to gain mass
*I’ve tested out the math myself, and it just so happens that by choosing whole unadulterated foods and simply using the palm/fist method consistently, my own personal diet usually falls somewhere between 40/40/20- 40/30/30 on most days.
T- TRANS FATS BE GONE! One of the most important things you can do to improve your diet is to cut out any foods containing trans fats immediately if you haven’t already. What are trans fats exactly? Food companies commonly add hydrogen to fats, making them more solid at room temperature and less likely to spoil. It’s great for their bottom line, but not so great for our health. There are countless studies proving that trans fats increase the risk for heart disease by increasing triglycerides, increasing LDL (bad cholesterol), and causing inflammation. All of these things play key roles in the formation of blockages to our arteries and blood vessels, which increases risk for heart attack and stroke.
Avoid buying foods that list any amount of “trans fats” on the nutrition label or the words “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” anywhere in the ingredients list. Baked goods, cereals, crackers, chips, margarine, and microwave popcorn are common offenders. Take a peek in your pantry to see what may be hiding in your family’s foods. It is absolutely shocking how many seemingly healthy brands are using trans fats! Be your own food detective, because food corporations and our government certainly aren’t going to do it for you.
Remember to use F.A.T. as a guide. These 3 simple tips will help you reach your fitness goals and improve your overall health in the process.