Low carb, low fat, and even high fat — there are many dietary approaches a person can take to improve or maintain their health. Eating a low fat diet is a simple way to cut out extra calories.

Doctors may advocate eating a low fat diet because calories from fat are higher per gram than those from protein or carbohydrates.

Some high fat foods — such as cookies, cakes, french fries, and greasy foods — may also have less nutritional value than healthful options such as fruits and vegetables.

Although fat is an essential part of a person's diet, there are "good fats" and "bad fats." Knowing the difference can help a person make informed choices about their meals.

In this article, we list some low fat foods and the benefits of a low-fat diet. We also look at a sample mix-and-match meal plan.

a woman looking out the window whilst eating some low fat foodsShare on Pinterest
A doctor may suggest a low fat diet to cut out extra calories.

Low fat foods are those that have 30% of their calories or less from fats. So, if a food contains fewer than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories, it is a low fat food.

To determine if a food is low fat, a person can read its nutrition label.

It is vital to read the part of the label that lists specific values, as many manufacturers label foods as "low fat" despite them having a relatively high fat content.

Examples of low fat foods a person can incorporate into their diet include:

Cereals, grains, and pasta products

  • corn or whole wheat tortillas
  • baked crackers
  • most cold cereals
  • noodles, especially whole grain versions
  • oatmeal
  • rice
  • whole grain bagels
  • English muffins
  • pita bread

Dairy products

Dairy products can be high in fat, but food manufacturers often offer lower fat versions. These include:

  • fat free cheese
  • fat free or "skim" milk or yogurt
  • light or fat free cream cheese
  • low fat cottage cheese, milk, or yogurt

Some nondairy yogurts are also low fat.

Protein sources

cooked tofu in a bowlShare on Pinterest
Tofu is a good low fat protein source.
  • beans
  • lentils
  • tofu
  • egg whites
  • lean cuts of meat
  • lentils
  • tuna
  • peas
  • shrimp
  • skinless chicken or turkey breast
  • veggie burgers

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are naturally low fat. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned options.

Miscellaneous foods

Additional foods that can be a part of a low fat diet include:

  • mustard
  • sauces containing skim milk
  • salsa
  • vegetable based broth soups
  • popcorn
  • honey
  • jam
  • light salad dressings, or simply lemon juice and balsamic vinegar

When considering a low fat diet, it is important to remember that not all fat types are unhealthful. The key is to eat a varied diet of nutritious, natural foods and avoid those high in saturated or trans fats.

Manufacturers add saturated fats or trans fats to foods to extend their shelf life. These types of fat are also present in fried foods.

These types of fat can increase a person's low density lipoprotein cholesterol, which, in turn, can increase their risk of heart disease and other health complications.

On the other hand, polyunsaturated — such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids — and monounsaturated fats can be beneficial to the body. These fats are present in nutritious foods such as:

  • salmon
  • avocado
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • seeds
  • tahini
  • walnuts

Diets that are very high in fat from processed and fast foods tend to contain less nutritional value than lower fat diets that include a mix of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

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The AHA recommend 3 servings of low fat or fat free dairy products per day.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend the following as part of a healthful eating pattern:

  • Dairy products: A person should aim to consume 3 servings of low fat or fat free dairy products per day.
  • Fruit: People should try to eat 4 servings of canned, dried, fresh, or frozen fruits each day.
  • Oils: Aim for up to 3 tablespoons of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated canola, olive, peanut, safflower, or sesame oils every day.
  • Proteins: Try to consume 1–2 servings of eggs, non-fried fish, lean meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, or skinless turkey or chicken per day.
  • Vegetables: Aim to eat 5 servings of canned, dried, fresh, or frozen vegetables each day.
  • Whole grains: A person should aim to consume 3–6 servings of grains — such as bread, brown rice, barley, crackers, or oatmeal — every day.

The following meal plan is low in fat:

  • Breakfast could comprise oatmeal with honey, frozen blueberries, and raisins, plus a cup of orange juice.
  • Lunch could comprise a tuna and cucumber wrap, a boiled egg, and a quarter of a cup of low fat vanilla yogurt.
  • Dinner could comprise spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, vegetables, and lean meatballs or a vegetarian alternative.
  • Snacks could be carrot sticks with hummus dip or whole grain crackers.

ChooseMyPlate.gov also offers samples of 2-week menus of low fat meals.

When preparing meals, a person should be mindful of the amount of oil they use. Cooking the food in a non-stick pan may help reduce the amount necessary.

Adopting a low fat diet can be a positive approach to healthful eating. It is vital to keep eating beneficial fats, such as those from fish, avocado, and seeds.

Eliminating unhealthful fats, however, can have a positive impact on a person's weight, heart health, and overall well-being.

If a person has questions on the type of diet they should follow for their health, they should talk to their doctor.