Q: I know foods like almonds, avocado, olive oil, and salmon have monounsaturated fats, but how much "healthy fat" is too much? And how much of these fatty foods should I eat to get the benefits without gaining weight?
A: Great question. Fats are a good thing, but they are no different in that you can get too much of them. Calories matter, and especially with oils, it's easy to take in a lot of calories without knowing. I’m going to a make a couple assumptions so I can most accurately answer your questions.
Let’s assume that you eat 1700 calories per day, and you follow a diet that is roughly 40-percent carbohydrates, 30-percent protein, and 30-percent fat (a sensible, moderate diet). You eat 3 meals and 1 snack of almonds (1oz) each day.
Using these numbers you’ll be eating 57 grams of fat per day. Your snack of 1oz of almonds contains 14 grams of fat, leaving you with 14 grams of fat for each of your meals. This is the amount of fat found in 1 Tbsp of oil (olive, sesame, coconut, canola, etc) or ½ of an avocado. One ounce of cheese contains 9 grams of fat, while 1 whole egg contains 6 grams. You can see that it is actually pretty easy meet your fat goals for the day.
The amount of fat that would cause you to gain weight is more a question of total calories. You don’t need to be locked into the 30 percent of calories from fat example that I used above, but between 30-35 percent is where most people should land, unless they are more aggressively restricting carbohydrates (<20 percent of total calories). Research with very low-carbohydrate diets shows that you can be much more liberal with your fat intake when your carbohydrates are very low.
One last tip that I always tell clients is to measure oils. It is very easy to pour 2 Tbsp of olive oil into a pan instead of 1. This simple strategy can instantly turn your fat and calorie intake from excess to ideal.
Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, is a nutritional consultant known for his ability to transform complex nutritional concepts into practical habits and strategies for his clientele, which includes professional athletes, executives, food companies, and top fitness facilities. Dr. Mike is the author of Dr. Mike's 7 Step Weight Loss Plan and the upcoming 6 Pillars of Nutrition.