Dietary Guidelines Explained: Recommended fat intake

"Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids… and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible. Keep total fat intake between 20 to 35 percent of calories."

If you feel like this guideline is pointing a finger at you – you’re probably right. Most people eat too much fat. Too much meat, too much cheese, too many donuts, too much ice cream, too much candy, too many fries, and so on. And here’s the thing – the only way to cut down on fat is to… tah dah… eat less of it. The most important fats to eat less of are saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are found in meat and in animal products such as milk, butter, cream etc. Trans fats are found in processed foods such as store-bought cookies, cakes, doughnuts and chips. Anything made with hydrogenated oil (including some margarines) contains trans fat. Eat these foods infrequently and in small quantities.

Fats such as those from avocados, nuts, fish, canola and olive oil are “healthy” fats, but these still need to be eaten conservatively.

Doing the math

How do you know if you’ve had 10 percent of your calories from saturated fats? The best way is to calculate 10 percent of your daily calories and then translate that into fat grams. For example, if you consume 1500 calories a day, 150 calories can come from saturated fat. There are 9 calories per gram of fat, so dividing 150 by 9 that equates to around 17 grams of saturated fat. A donut, a tablespoon of butter, and a glass of milk together contain 16 grams of saturated fat and would almost put you at your limit. Here are some other common equivalents for quick reference.