Bring on the fats
Remember when fat-free and low-fat was all the rage? In an effort to save a few calories, you'd opt for the versions that cut out some or all of the fat, chowing down on low fat peanut butter and tossing all the egg yolks. Thankfully, fats (especially the healthy, unsaturated fats) have made a comeback. And in a healthy diet, 20-35% of your total calories should come from fats. The key lies in choosing the right types of fat so that you consume essential fatty acids (those your body can't make on its own) and feel satiated without increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Break it down for me
Dietary fats come in a few forms, including trans, saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids. The Food and Drug Administration placed a ban on artificially produced trans fats (they occur naturally in some meats + cheeses) beginning in 2018. Consumption of trans fatty acids has been linked to an increase in cardiovascular disease risk (related to an increase in the bad cholesterol called low density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol), so the goal is to consume as few of these fats as possible. Recently, there's been conflicting research on saturated fats (found in high amounts in dairy + meat), but the American Heart Association (AHA) still recommends limiting saturated fats to 5-6% of total calories (~13 grams saturated fat when consuming 2000 calories/day). So, the majority of your fat intake should come from unsaturated fats ("healthy fats"). Sources of unsaturated fats include fish, canola oil, olive oil, avocado, flaxseed, almonds, and walnuts. The AHA recommends consuming at least two servings of fish per week, focusing on fatty fish like salmon, lake trout, and albacore tuna for the essential omega-3 fatty acids.
What's the catch?
At 9 calories per gram of fat (compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein), it's still wise to watch portion size. Since fats are calorie-dense, a little goes a long way. A tablespoon of olive oil provides around 120 calories and a quarter of avocado can contain around 80 calories. If you're aiming for 600 calories from fat (30% of a 2000 calorie day), you could nearly meet this in just one meal by consuming a couple eggs cooked in two tablespoons of olive oil with a whole avocado on the side. So what should you do? Keep incorporating healthy fats into your diet, but measure these foods (at least for a couple days) to better understand what a serving size looks like. Finally, for heart health, try to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats rather than swapping them out for processed carbohydrates.