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Become a fat and Calorie detective

CWE_YEY_Lifestyle_Coach_Banner_FarrellBy: Teresa Farrell received her undergraduate degree from North Dakota State University. She has been working as a Registered Dietitian in the Brainerd Lakes area for more than 20 years, currently at the Essentia Health Brainerd Clinic. She enjoys helping people meet their nutrition goals and overall lifestyle improvement. She is married with four great children.

This week we’re going to look at how to eat less fat and fewer Calories. Your may remember from last week the reason we’re focusing on eating less fat is because fat has twice as many Calories as carbohydrates and protein. You can get a big Calorie savings by limiting your fat intake.


When looking at eating less fat and fewer calories one of the great things about it is that you don’t have to eat less food! Let’s look at our basic food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy and meat/protein. The majority of vegetables and fruit do not have any fat and are low in Calories. So, if we replace some of our meat, grain and high fat dairy intake with produce we will be lowering our fat and Calorie intake. I love this idea! Nobody wants to be hungry when they are trying to lose weight. This is assuming you’re not adding rich (fatty) sauces or using high fat dips. Having a couple of servings of vegetables with your meal will help you eat less of the higher Calorie items and for a sweet ending to your meal have fruit for dessert. Yum!


For meats we want to look for lean and extra lean cuts of meat and cook them without added fat. Baking, broiling and grilling are all great options. Another thing to consider is using more meatless protein options such as nuts, seeds and legumes (dry beans and peas). Beans and other legumes are a good source of protein and high in fiber, which makes them very filling. Think bean soup or chili on these cold winter days! Nuts, nut butters and seeds are a good protein choice also. They contain “healthy fats” for your heart but they are high in fat and Calories so watch your portions closely.


Dairy products can vary from high in fat to fat free and everything in between! The fat in dairy products is saturated fat, like that found in meat and other animal products that can raise your cholesterol. This is a good area to choose lower fat and fat-free items. However don’t eliminate dairy products as they are by far one of the best sources of calcium, which we need to keep our bones strong.

Grains such as bread, cereal, pasta, crackers, rolls, tortillas etc… often have hidden fats. In fact most of the fat we eat (70%) is hidden in food! This emphasizes the need to read food labels and to take a close look at your recipes. When reading food labels for fat and Calories always be sure to check what portion size they are basing this information on.


Another source of fat is the fat we add to our foods: butter, margarine, mayonnaise, high fat sauces and dips, gravies, sour cream, salad dressing, in addition to any fat we may add in cooking, frying or baking. Think of those recipes that call for a cup of butter or oil. Oh my!

Indeed we need to be a fat detective!


Keeping a food record, whether on paper or online is one of the best ways to track your fat and Calorie intake. To be accurate when tracking your fat and calories you need to pay close attention to your portion sizes. The best way to do this is to measure your foods. Take out your measuring cups and spoons and food scale if you have one. If you don’t have a food scale they can be purchased at a reasonable cost at many of our local stores here in the Brainerd Lakes area. In our super-size society many of the portions and corresponding fat and Calorie content may be surprising. One glass of milk is not necessarily 1 cup, 1 bowl of cereal is not necessarily 1 serving of cereal. Knowing your portions size is key to tracking your fat and Calorie intake accurately.


When you recognize where the fat in your diet is coming from there are three ways to reduce your intake: 1. Eat the high fat food less often 2. Eat the high fat food in smaller amounts or 3. Substitute a lower fat food.


Become a fat and Calorie detective by being aware of your food choices and the portions.


Have fun investigating!