Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

Healthy Fats

See how healthy fats fit into the Diabetes Plate Method of meal planning

By Lara Hamilton, RD, CDE
Learn More about Eat Well America


After learning about the three main sections of the plate method, take a look at the fat you use. To lower your risk of heart disease, try to eat less saturated and trans fat—the unhealthy fats. At the same time, you can protect your heart by eating more mono and polyunsaturated fats including omega-3s—the healthy fats. Fats are useful during the cooking of foods and also make satisfying toppers—think oil-based salad dressings or a light sprinkling of toasted nuts on a baked dish.

Saturated Fats: Limit Them

These types of fats are found in high amounts in certain cuts of meat and in full-fat milk products. Saturated fats to limit include lard, butter, cream, palm oil and high-fat meats such as sausage, hot dogs, and bologna.

Trans Fats: Avoid Them

Like saturated fat, trans fat increases blood cholesterol levels. It is actually worse for you than saturated fat and for a heart-healthy diet, you want to eat as little trans fat as possible by avoiding all foods that contain it. Trans fats are found in processed foods such snacks (crackers and chips) and baked goods (muffins, cookies and cakes) with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, stick margarines or shortening.

Healthy Fats: Enjoy Them in Small Amounts

The Association recommends substituting monounsaturated fats in place of saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats include avocado, olive oil, olives, peanut butter, canola oil, and nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans, and peanuts. But be careful! Nuts and oils are high in calories, like all fats. If you are trying to lose or maintain your weight, you want to eat small portions of these foods. For example, 6 almonds or 4 pecan halves have the same number of calories as 1 teaspoon of oil or butter.

Polyunsaturated fats are also healthy fats. The Association recommends sibstituting monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in place of saturated fats. Sources of polyunsaturated fats are corn oil, sunflower oil, walnuts, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.

Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent clogging of the arteries. Some types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The Association recommends eating non-fried fish two or three times a week. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include tuna, mackerel, sardines, and salmon. Plant sources include walnuts and flaxseed.

Keep your portions of fat small and try these four tips:

  1. When cooking, use liquid oils such as olive oil instead of butter, margarine, or shortening
  2. For dressings and spreads, used light or reduced-fat spread without trans fat. Vinaigrettes are a better choice than creamy dressings. And consider low-fat, vegetable-rich salsas, pico de gallo, and hummus.
  3. Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats and can be added to stir-fries, salads, and used as a topper for a meat main dish, such as pecan chicken.
  4. Avocados are full of healthy fat. Use them to make chicken salad in place of mayonnaise, mash and spread on a sandwich, and slice or dice them for salads.

>> See how to create your plate.