A Dietitian Answers 3 Questions On Dietary Fats

by Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Last Updated: February 17, 2021

There’s so much muddled information about fat intake, especially with trend diets focusing on low (or high!) fat consumption. It can be confusing to know which fat should play a part in your eating pattern. Here, one of our dietitians offers some clarity about what type of fats to aim for and what amounts to include in your eating routine.
  1. I enjoy eating meat, but I am trying to cut back and incorporate more vegetables into my diet. When I have a craving for meat, what type should I choose and why?
    Amping up the veggies in your diet is a smart way to increase nutrition, provide lasting energy, and fight chronic disease. Virtual high-five! So, without ignoring the need to include vegetables on your plate (aim for one cup of vegetables per meal), we still want to have space for protein.

    Turn to lean proteins. How do you identify a lean protein for meat, poultry, and seafood? Read below:
    • Less than 10 grams of total fat
    • 4.5 grams saturated fat
    • 95 milligrams cholesterol per 100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces serving as packaged)

    Stay under one serving total of red meat (including beef, pork, lamb, bison) and processed meat (including bacon, sausage, hot dogs) per week. High intakes of saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. Keep in mind that some vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, and beans provide a “meaty” flavor to dishes known as umami. Consider using these ingredients instead, and you may not miss the meat! Or, mix equal parts diced mushrooms to ground meat, and you won’t even know the difference.
  2. What is the healthiest cooking oil (or oils) and why?
    This is a two-part question. Four of the best liquid oils are olive, avocado canola, and flax oil. Olive, avocado, and canola oils have a hefty amount of monounsaturated fat and little saturated fat. Flax oil is also low in saturated fat but gets a gold star for having a nice dose of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) omega-3 fats.

    However, if you are cooking at high heat (over 400 degrees F), you want an oil that is stable and doesn’t smoke. Avocado has a smoking point of 520 degrees F, one of the highest. Commonly, peanut, corn, and soybean oils are used at this heat for frying, but they don’t offer as much health benefit as the ones previously mentioned.

    Somewhere in the middle stands “light/refined” olive oil (smoke point of about 430 degrees F), and that should be the one in your grocery cart for doing any sautéing or pan-frying.
  3. I like 2% milk, and my doctor told me to switch to skim because I’m on a low cholesterol diet. But I don’t like skim. It looks blue and watered down. Isn’t 2% okay to drink? I only have one glass a day.
    The switch to low-fat (defined as 3 grams (g) fat or less per serving) dairy aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 and is a beneficial strategy in managing cholesterol. Unfortunately, most of the fat from animal products is in the form of saturated fat, which negatively impacts blood cholesterol levels. Although your doctor had some solid advice on this, one serving of a favorite dairy product a day that happens to be higher in fat (5g in 2% milk versus 0g in skim milk) probably won’t single-handedly increase your cholesterol. Take a step back and look at the overview of your diet: are you overdoing things like high-fat meats, pastries, hard cheese, or butter? It’s best to aim for less than 22g saturated fat per day for best results.

Do you have any other questions you wish you could ask a nutrition professional? Or do you need someone to help guide you along your food and nutrition journey? Sign up for a free virtual telenutrition session during the COVID-19 pandemic with one of our expert dietitians at www.krogerhealth.com/telenutrition.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly can help you simplify eating, all while building excitement around good food and freeing up time for all the things that really matter in your life. With a knack for food labeling and regulations, weight management, food intolerances, and plant-based eating, Molly is ready to help you make sense of food again. When not on the clock, Molly can be found hip-hop dancing, cuddling up with her two mischievous cats, playing trombone, or honing in on her food photography skills.