The days of fat fear are over! The weight loss world is letting go of the myth that eating fat makes you fat, and is beginning to embrace the power of healthy fats in our diets. “Fats increase satiety, which means they help us feel satisfied,” says Lauren Slayton, MS RD, author of The Little Book of Thin. “Certain types of fat also help us lose body fat during weight loss.”
Not to mention, the healthy fats found in whole foods, like avocados, olive oil and nuts (sorry, not the processed fats found in cookies and cakes), are an essential element in every diet — whether the goal is weight loss or not. As Slayton points out, fat is essential for the absorption of some nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E and K — plus, fat can help ease constipation.
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With that said, fats are still higher in calories than other foods. As explained by Cleveland Clinic, fats have nine calories per gram compared to the four calories per gram found in protein and carbohydrates. In other words, the same amount of fat provides more than twice as many calories. That’s why it’s important to keep your portion sizes in check. Luckily, we’ve rounded up the ultimate cheat sheet to prevent you from taking your love for cheese and avocados a little too far. Check it out, then dig in.
7 Portion Size Rules for Healthy High-Fat Foods
Portion size: Half an avocado, or the size of a computer mouse
Between avocado toast and guacamole, our love for avocados is endless. Yet, recommended serving sizes for this fruit (yes, fruit) are all over the place — from one-fifth of an avocado to a quarter to a half. Lucky for us, research leans toward the higher end of this range, with one study finding that half an avocado at lunch helped people feel full longer with less desire to snack later. Assuming don’t have the whole fruit in front of you to gauge, your serving size should be about the size of a computer mouse (not quite the size of your face, guac lovers).
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Portion size: 1.5 ounces, or the size of a lipstick tube
As anyone who’s hovered over the cheese platter at a party can agree, “Cheese is a food that can be abused,” Slayton says. She recommends keeping your portion to the size of a tube of lipstick, and avoiding overly processed cheeses and spreads (sorry, Cheez Whiz). According to research, opting for full-fat, organic cheese gives you a higher dose of good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids, too.
Portion size: Two whole eggs, or about 1/2 cup scrambled
Conventional wisdom once held that eating egg yolks led to higher cholesterol and heart disease, but newer research has debunked that myth. Whether you’re starting your day sunny-side up or snacking on hard-boiled eggs, keep your serving to two whole eggs. (If you’re scooping scrambled eggs off a buffet, two eggs would be about half a cup, or the size of a slice of bread.)
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4. Fatty Meats and Seafood
Portion size: 3 ounces, or about the size of your palm
The types of fat in meat varies widely, according to Harvard’s School of Public Health, and while saturated fat isn’t condemned by doctors as it once was, the polyunsaturated fats in fish are still preferable. (In other words, the saturated fats in red meat might not be bad for you, but they aren’t as good for you as the fats in seafood either.) The fish highest in healthy omega-3s are mackerel, trout, herring, tuna and salmon. Regardless of whether you go for fish or meat, the ideal portion size is about the palm of your hand.
5. Milk products
Portion size: 1 cup, or about the size of a baseball
When it comes to milk and yogurt, Slayton’s advice is to “skip the skim,” as there is generally more net sugar in fat-free options. Instead, consider full-fat milk and full-fat or low-fat yogurt, and go for a portion size of one cup (eight ounces), or about the size of a baseball if you’re eye-balling it.
6. Nut butters
Portion size: 1 tablespoon, or about half a golf ball
Slayton’s favorite nut butter is sunflower butter (yes, technically a seed butter), as it offers linoleic acid, which has been shown to reduce belly fat. However, as UC Berkeley explains, all nut butters can be a healthy option, offering protein, fiber and a wide array of vitamins and minerals in addition to healthy fats. Just keep an eye out for added sugars and preservatives. As for serving size, stick to one tablespoon or half a golf ball, with a maximum of two servings per day (yup, that’s the whole golf ball for those keeping track at home).
RELATED: 8 Lower Calorie Nut Butter Recipes
7. Oils, Butter and Ghee
Portion size: 1 tablespoon, or about the size of a poker chip
The huge range of fat options for both cooking and serving can be overwhelming. While there are lots of articles suggesting the dozen different oils you should cook with for every possible case, Slayton’s recommendation is to keep things simple and stick with coconut oil for high-heat cooking (e.g. frying, sauteeing, stir-fying), and olive oil for lower temps (oven cooking, for example). Butter is also a safe bet for lower temps. Regardless of which you choose, your portion size should be one tablespoon per person per meal. That’s approximately the size of a poker chip if you’re the gambling type.
Once you’ve got your portion sizes down, remember to make the most of your high-fat diet. Focus on high-quality foods. “Grass-fed butter is very different nutritionally from conventional butter. Raw nuts are different from roasted,” Slayton says. Finally, aim to eat a wide variety of high-fat foods, but don’t go overboard. Her guideline is one “added” fat per meal (e.g. nuts, cheese, or avocado on a salad — not all three).