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How Much Fat and Carbs Should I Actually Be Eating?

October 14, 2023

Sometimes, basic nutrition can feel like a quiz you forgot to study for. Take fats and carbs. You know they directly impact your weight and health. And yet, do you actually know how much fat and carbs you should be eating? If you’re drawing a blank, there’s a good reason. This question is more complicated than it seems. We asked a bariatric surgery dietitian to explain. [insert-cta-small id=52395]

Before you start counting grams, learn the different types of fat and carbs.

Put down the calculator. When it comes to a healthy approach to fat and carbs, the most important question is actually quality, not quantity. “Rather than a total number for fats and carbs, focus on the type,” says Samantha Oldman, MS, a Hartford HealthCare bariatric surgery dietitian who practices in Norwich. “We want to focus on healthy fats and carbs, versus their unfavorable counterparts.” That’s true for everyone, whether you’re working toward weight loss or are already at your maintenance weight. > Related: Should I Try Cutting Carbs, Fat or Sugar for Weight Loss?

For carbs, go for low sugar and high fiber.

“In today’s society, carbs are made out to be the bad guy, with the trend of low-carb and keto diets. But carbs are actually your body’s primary and preferred source of quick energy. The key is to consume the right type,” says Oldman. Carbs with added sugars add unnecessary calories. On the other hand, carbs with high fiber balance your blood sugar and hunger throughout the day, and decrease cholesterol. Check the label. Per serving, the healthiest carbohydrates have:
  • Added sugars: Less than 5g
  • Dietary fiber: At least 3g
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For fat, avoid saturated and embrace unsaturated.

Not all fats are created equal. Saturated fats clog your arteries and contribute to heart disease. Meanwhile, unsaturated fats actually protect your heart — making them essential to a healthy diet. Want an easy way to tell which is which? “As a good rule, saturated fats are solid at room temperature,” says Oldman. “Think of it like this: If it’s solid outside your body, it’ll be solid inside your body — and increase your risk of clogged arteries.” Avoid saturated fats, including:
  • Butter and lard
  • Fats found in meats and dairy
  • Coconut oil
Choose unsaturated fats, including:
  • Vegetable oils like olive oil, avocado oil and canola oil
  • Nuts, seeds and fatty fish like salmon

If you still want an exact target for daily fat and carbs, talk to an expert.

“If you’re really struggling with a weight loss stall or plateau, then we can delve more into a specific number for how many grams of fat and carbs per day,” says Oldman. Much like the total calories you should consume in a day, your ideal amount of fat and carbs is specific to you. It hinges on basic factors like your height, weight and activity level, along with more complicated variables like your genetics and health conditions like diabetes. A registered dietitian or doctor will know the right questions to ask, from a detailed health questionnaire to a conversation about your goals. “These questions are very individualized. Every patient comes in with a different health history and varying needs,” says Oldman. At least for that quiz, you won’t need to study.