Easy Rules to Follow When Choosing Foods with Fat

It seems that every other day another article comes out claiming fat is good, and then the next day fat is evil again. What are we supposed to do about fat with all this conflicting information?

Even though it can be overwhelming at times, making the right choices regarding dietary fat is important for everyone, and it is particularly important for those with type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes have two to four times greater risk than those without diabetes of having a heart attack or stroke. Some of the factors contributing to increased risk for people with diabetes include hypertension, uncontrolled blood sugar, obesity, and high blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides). Diet can play a significant role in managing these factors to help delay or avoid the occurrence of cardiovascular disease; specifically carbohydrates, sodium, and fat intake are of particular concern. Reading food labels can help to regulate not only your total intake of fat, but also your intake of healthy fats over unhealthy fats.

Let’s clear up the nutritional noise surrounding fats. Follow these rules of thumb for fat the next time you read a nutrition label:

  1. Eliminate trans fats. Everyone agrees trans fats are detrimental to your health as they increase the risk of all-cause mortality (risk of dying from any cause) by 34%!7 Try to avoid these fats as much as possible. You can find these fats in processed foods such as cookies, cakes and pastries.
  2. Lower intake of saturated fat. Limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of your total calories. Drop it down to 7 percent to further reduce your risk of heart disease. On a 2,000-calorie diet, this is equal to about 200 calories (22 grams) or 140 calories (16 grams) from saturated fats. What does that look like for the typical American? Just 2 pats of butter, 1 slice of cheese, 1 cup of 2% milk and a skinless roasted chicken leg put you around 17 grams of saturated fat.8
  3. Be intentional about eating omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American consumes a high quantity of omega-6’s and not enough omega-3’s—roughly a 16:1 ratio. Omega-3s have the most health benefits when consumed in a 1:1 ratio with omega 6’s. Try to add in foods rich in omega-3’s like salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds!

So how do you incorporate these 3 rules of thumb into everyday eating practices? Use these 12 practical tips to eat more of the good fats and less of the bad ones:

  1. Base your diet on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, non-fat and low-fat dairy, fish, beans, and nuts. Focusing on these foods will balance your diet and eliminate excess saturated and trans fats.
  2. Try substituting a fatty fish dish instead of a meat dish. You’ll get more heart-healthy omega-3’s and cut down on the saturated fat.
  3. Sauté with olive or canola oil instead of butter.
  4. Choose low-fat and nonfat dairy products.
  5. Review nutrition labels for hidden trans fat by reading the ingredients list.
  6. Add some avocado to your sandwich or salad for some healthy MUFAs in place of mayonnaise and creamy dressings.
  7. Avoid deep-fried food and baked goods made with shortening.
  8. Remove skin from chicken and trim off extra fat.
  9. Use oil-based salad dressings over cream based dressing. Go for balsamic vinaigrette over ranch dressing.
  10. Buy lean cuts of beef and poultry. Aim for at least 90% lean. For extra lean meat (99% lean), add in olive oil, a healthy fat, to prevent the meat from becoming too dry.
  11. When cooking, drain the fat from the meat to reduce some of the saturated fat.
  12. Don’t go nuts when choosing nuts. Try to include them every day but in the right amounts.




Serving Size




chia seeds
1 Tbsp + 1 Tsp
13 nuts
25 nuts
brazil nuts
3 nuts
11 nuts
4 nuts
hazelnuts (Filbert)
11 nuts
5.5 nuts
walnuts (whole)
4 nuts (8 halves)
17 nuts
pecans (halves)
10 nuts
pine nuts
2 Tbsp (~113 kcals)
sunflower seeds
11 seeds
pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 Tbsp
flaxseed (ground)
2 Tbsp
hemp seeds
2 Tbsp


There are many ways to ensure you’re eating healthy fats and the right amounts. Read the nutrition labels, use the rules of thumb as a guide, and try out some of the practical tips to help you get more healthy fats into your diet.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.
poll graphic

Community Poll

Did you know that diabetes is a risk factor for developing chronic kidney disease?