How to detect and avoid fat

Excess fat may have harmful effects on our health, including increasing risk for obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Fat in the diet can have harmful effects such as increasing cholesterol, which increases the chance of a heart attack, Type 2 diabetes and the risk for obesity. The problem is that these fatty foods surround us day in and day out. Some fats we may see and others we may not, especially those in baked products or sauces.

Some food groups that are often higher in fat include: Meats (marbling), dairy foods, snack foods (potato chips), butter/margarine, gravy/sauces, mayonnaise, baked goods and oil heavy foods. Meals eaten away from home tend to be higher in fat compared to meals prepared in the home. So how do we know how much fat is in the foods we consume away from home? Most restaurants and fast-food establishments list their menu with nutritional content on their website, or may provide a menu with nutritional content at the establishment.

High-fat foods are twice as calorically dense then other foods. Total fat intake for one day should be about 25 percent of your total calorie intake.

So, how can we eat less fat?

  • Eat the food items that are higher in fat, less often
  • Eat smaller amounts of high-fat foods
  • For high-fat foods, make substitutions that are lower in fat and calories

Eating high-fat food items less often and in smaller amounts can assist us when dining away from home. It is usually easier to make substitutions that are lower in calories and/or fat when at home or in a convenience store.

Substitutions for high-fat foods include:

  • Vegetable chips for potato chips
  • Low-fat cheese for full-fat cheese
  • Skinless, boneless baked chicken breast for fried chicken with skin
  • Skim milk for whole milk
  • Apple for a muffin
  • Pretzels for fried chips
  • Ground turkey breast or ground sirloin for ground beef

Michigan State University Extension is offering the National Diabetes Prevention Program which provides education in lowering fat content. This program is a one-year intervention that coaches participants to adapt lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of pre-diabetes. These programs occur across Michigan, current interventions can be found at Additional information can also be found at

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