What Is A Low-Fat Diet?

Grains, beans, and potatoes form the foundation of a healthy, low-fat, starch-based diet.

The USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines say that between 20-35% of a day’s calories should come from fat. They call that moderate fat, not low fat.

Here are some groups that ate “low-fat”:

Kempner Rice Diet patients: 2-3% fat
Okinawans before 1960s: 6%
Cubans during Special Period: 10%
Barnard’s 2006 study (High-Carb, Low-Fat For Diabetes) : 19% (their goal was 10%)
The Famed PREDIMED Mediterranean Diet, low-fat arm: 37%

So, low-fat has been described as anywhere from 2 to 37%. (That 37% is crazy high, I don’t know how they get away with it.)

In my mind, a realistic low-fat diet contains something less than 20% fat but higher than what the Cubans and Okinawans ate, more in the range of 10-15%. What does that mean in terms of food?

If you ate 2000 calories a day:

37% fat would be 740 calories or 82 grams of fat.
35% fat would be 700 calories or 78 grams of fat.
20% fat would be 400 calories or 44 grams of fat.
15% fat would be 300 calories or 33 grams of fat.
10% fat would be 200 calories or 22 grams of fat.
6% fat would be 120 calories or 13 grams of fat.
3% fat would be 60 calories or 7 grams of fat.

So, a low-fat diet has about 22-33 grams of fat, depending on how many calories you eat.

Here are some low-fat foods:

  • A 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal has about 2.6 grams of fat.
  • A 1/2 cup of chickpeas has about 2 grams of fat.
  • A cup of cooked brown rice has about 2 grams of fat.
  • Two slices of whole wheat bread has about 4 grams of fat.
  • A cup of cooked spaghetti has about 1 gram of fat.
  • A cup of almond milk has about 3 grams of fat.
  • A 1/2 cup of corn has about 0.5 grams of fat.
  • A 1/2 cup of peas has about 0.5 grams of fat.
  • A medium red-skinned potato has about 0.3 grams of fat.
  • A medium banana has about 0.4 grams of fat.

Some fattier foods:

  • A 1/4 cup of pureed avocado has about 9 grams of fat.
  • Two tablespoons pumpkin seeds have about 7 grams of fat.
  • Two tablespoons peanut butter have about 16 grams of fat.
  • Two tablespoons olive oil have about 28 grams of fat.

Even an oil-free, vegan diet contains fat, sometimes quite a lot.

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