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Nutrition Library: Nutrition Basics

Decrease the fat in your diet

Read the food labels

  1. Read the nutrition information.
  2. Look for the amount of saturated fat, total fat, cholesterol, and calories in one serving. Compare similar products to find one with the smallest amounts.

  3. Look at the ingredients.

All food labels list the product's ingredients in order by weight. The ingredient in the greatest amount is listed first. The ingredient in the least amount is listed last. Choose foods low in saturated fat or total fat by limiting your use of products that list any fat or oil first -- or that list many fat and oil ingredients. If you are watching your sodium intake, do the same for sodium or salt. Use the chart below to find the sources of saturated fat and cholesterol in foods as they may appear in the list of ingredients.

Sources of Saturated Fat & Cholesterol

Animal fat Lamb fat

Cream Cocoa butter

Palm kernel oil Vegetable oil

Bacon fat Hydrogenated vegetable oil

Egg and egg-yolk solids Chicken fat

Palm Oil Turkey fat

Beef fat Hardened fat or oil

Ham fat Butter

Pork fat Meat fat

Vegetable shortening Coconut oil

Coconut Whole milk solids



Foods to Choose When You Shop

Meat, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish

  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Beef: eye of round, top round
  • Pork: tenderloin, sirloin, top loin
  • Veal: shoulder, ground veal, cutlets, sirloin
  • Lamb: leg-shank
  • Lean or extra lean ham and ground beef
  • Chicken or turkey (remove skin)
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Dairy Foods

  • Skim or 1% milk
  • Cheeses* labeled "reduced fat," "low fat," "light," "part-skim," or "fat free"
  • Low fat or non-fat yogurt

Fats and Oils

  • Margarine (diet, tub, liquid)
  • Vegetable oils (like canola, corn, olive, peanut, safflower, or sesame)
  • Low fat peanut butter

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Fruits: fresh, frozen, canned, or dried
  • Vegetables: fresh, frozen, or canned without cream or cheese sauces
  • Juices: fresh or frozen

Breads, Cereals, Rice, Pasta, and Dry Peas & Beans

  • Breads* (like whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, or white)
  • Buns, dinner rolls, bagels, English muffins, pita breads*
  • Low fat crackers (like bread sticks or saltines)*
  • Tortillas
  • Hot & cold cereals* (except granola and meusli)
  • Plain pasta (like spaghetti or macaroni)
  • Rice
  • Dry peas & beans (like black-eyed peas, chick peas, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, soybeans, or split peas)
  • Refried beans made with vegetable oil (instead of lard)
  • Tofu

Sweets & Snacks

  • Low fat cookies (like animal crackers, graham crackers, fig other fruit bars, ginger snaps, vanilla & lemon wafers, or devil's food cookies)
  • Angel food and other low fat cakes
  • Frozen yogurt, fruit ices, ice milk, or sherbet
  • Pudding made with skim or 1% milk or gelatin desserts
  • Popcorn without butter, pretzels, or baked tortilla chips*

*If you are watching your sodium intake, be sure to check the labels to find low-sodium products.

(Reprinted with permission from the National Institute of Health)

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