5 Healthy Fats to have in your kitchen for fast snacks
As a baby of the 80s, growing up with the “No Fat”, “Low Fat”, “Fat makes you fat” mentality, there is definitely a fear of fat that is seen in the way many of us eat today. And with the “you are what you eat” line of reasoning, you may find yourself saying “no” to fats and missing out on what may actually help you lose weight or maintain weight loss.
Not all fats are created equal.
A nutritious eating plan includes healthy fats. A general goal is for 20% to 35% of your total daily calories to come from healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and limiting saturated fats, like processed and fast foods, to less than 10% of your total daily calories.
Instead of Red Meat, try lean chicken and fish
Cooking with butter? Swap for avocado oil or olive oil
Potato Chips? Crunch on Nuts and Seeds
Need something to dip? Swap your cheese dip or dairy based dressing for avocado mash or hummus
Let’s break down fats
Unsaturated fats, this is the healthy kind of fat, has two categories: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Mono- and poly- are referring to the bond between the carbon and hydrogen molecules in fats. The piece to remember is that unsaturated fats are the fats found in whole foods.
Unsaturated fats examples Mono-
Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, nut butters and also found in plant oils, such as olive, peanut, sesame, and canola oils.
A note about oil:
While heating oils, keep in mind that if the oil is smoking, it is too hot and you are losing the valuable benefits of these fats. Olive oil is best for dressing or topping food after it has been cooked whereas avocado or coconut oils is better for cooking with as it can withstand more heat. Always read your labels and do a little research- many oils may say one type on the front of the bottle, but it is actually a combination of oils. Oil is best kept in a tinted glass bottle kept in a cool dark pantry.
Unsaturated fats examples Poly- for your Omegas
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Walnuts, Pecans, flaxseeds, Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax oil, salmon, soybeans, safflower oil, soybean oil, seaweed, and fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and trout.
Saturated fats or the “bad fats”
Saturated fats increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, raise bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, and promote inflammation. They’re usually combined with sugar and salt. These fats are primarily found in fast, processed foods, and tend to be more solid than healthier fats. Animal products like beef, pork, and high-fat dairy foods, like butter, margarine, cream, and cheese tend to have high amounts of saturated fat.
A note on Cholesterol
Remember the “no-fat” craze where it was said you could still enjoy your favorite potato chips and cookies without fat? They were filled with artificial fat and hydrogenated oils that increase the risk of heart disease and raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.
Good and bad cholesterol are often referred to as HDL and LDL respectively. Your body needs both. HDL is known as “good cholesterol”, or high-density lipoprotein, transports the bad (LDL) cholesterol away from cells to your liver where your body can rid itself of the excess so it is less likely to stick to your arteries. LDL, bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein, is the one your doctor refers to when stating you have “high cholesterol”. LDL carries cholesterol that can stick to arteries, collect in the vessel lining forming plaque, and sometimes block blood flow. LDL is found in saturated fats- the fats you want to limit.
As far as calories are concerned, fat is fat. 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories versus just 4 calories per gram of protein or carbs. However, adding a small amount of healthy fat in every meal or snack helps you to feel satisfied and full.
Consider eating celery sticks for an afternoon snack when your energy is low. It would take an awful lot of willpower to not run to the vending machine or the coffee pot after your celery sticks are gone. In the afternoon lull, that many of us feel, celery just isn’t going to give us a boost of energy or satisfy a need for a snack to last us until dinner. Now consider the same celery sticks, but with two tablespoons of your favorite nut butter or hummus. Much better, right? The fat from the nuts and oil in the hummus gives you energy that will now get you through the rest of the day and the mental stamina to last until dinner.
Yes, you need fat in your diet
Strategically including healthy fats in our diet promotes healthy brain function, reduces inflammation, and allows vitamin absorption.
Did you know that nearly 60% of our brain is made up of fat? Eating fat supports our brain and nervous system function, by strengthening the cell membranes. Our body needs fat to function. I don’t think I have to explain “brain fog” to any adult here. That feeling of blur between you and the end of your next stop. Adding healthy fats to your diet like nuts, fatty fish, and olive oil and limiting foods with high amounts of saturated fat like butter, cheese, fast and fried foods, has been studied and shown to have better cognitive function and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Diets higher in unsaturated fats (healthy fats) have been studied and found to reduce inflammation whereas diets high in saturated fats most foods deemed “junk food” have been shown to aid in inflammation. Inflammation and gut health is a huge topic right now linked to many diseases, leaky gut syndrome, malabsorption of nutrients, poor hormone function, and loss of appetite cues.
Takeaway on fats:
Food choices that have minimal ingredients are the best option. Whole foods are best, but if you do choose a processed food, stick to the 5 ingredient rule: If it has more than 5 ingredients, move on.
Omega 3s, found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, plant oils, and some fortified food like eggs, can help increase insulin sensitivity by reducing inflammation. They are also unique in that they are less likely to be stored in fat tissue and more likely to be taken up directly by your liver for immediate use as energy, promoting increased calorie burning. It has also been noted that omega-3s may prevent cortisol levels from increasing during chronic stress allowing your body to stay balanced.
Nutrient absorption is often overlooked. Your intestine absorbs fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A,D,E,and K) when paired with a fat source. Not absorbing these vitamins can lead to deficiencies and heighten your risk of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. Something to consider if you are really bold and eat a kale salad every day, you may think you are serving your body well. Which, don’t get me wrong- you are! However, without a fat source in your meal, you are missing out on vitamins A and K.
Ever wonder why salad dressing is such a big business? Rows and rows of options in your grocery store. The reason it is encouraged to load up your greens with salad dressing is this…You need dietary fat to absorb vital vitamins and minerals. Here’s the dirty on your salad dressing though- many are loaded with saturated fats!
The best option to top your salad with is a vinaigrette or other oil based dressing. There are many non dairy alternatives that use olive or avocado oil instead of creams. And of course Portions, Portions, Portions! Get out your tablespoon for this. Try using just 2 tablespoons of dressing and allow your salad to sit for a few minutes before you dig in. This will allow the dressing to soften some of those greens because less is more.
Note: a tablespoon of fat can be measured in comparison to your thumb- only the knuckle to the end though!
5 healthy fats to have on hand for snacks
1- Nuts and seeds
Nuts: Almonds, Peanuts, Macadamia, Hazelnuts, Walnuts
Seeds: Pumpkin, Sesame, sunflower, Chia seeds
Snack idea: nuts, seeds and berries
How much? 1 oz = ¼ cup; less than a handful
Snack idea: Mashed avocado and veggies or avocado toast
How much? ½ avocado
Tip: after you slice your avocado, store the side with the seed covered with plastic or just wrapped in a napkin in your fridge for your next meal.
3- Nut Butters
Snack idea: Nut butter and carrots or strawberries
How much? 1-2 level Tablespoons, 2 Tablespoons = 1 thumb
Tip: Actually measure this for a few snacks with a level measuring spoon. 1 heaping tablespoon can easily equal 3-4 tablespoons.
4- Eggs: Eat the whole thing! The egg yolk actually contains fat and several important nutrients such as vitamin D, B, choline, and lutein.
Snack idea: hard boiled eggs So easy to have on hand and just eat a couple for a quick snack.
How much? 2 eggs is a great snack
5- Olives: monounsaturated fat and fiber!
Snack idea: Olives on the go and sweet red pepper
How much? ¼ cup or roughly 16 olives
Bonus: 6- Tuna, Salmon, Sardines
Snack Idea: lettuce wraps with on the go salmon packs or add a squeeze of lemon and eat right out of the package!
How much? 2-4 oz or the size of the palm of your hand