Janel, a Registered Dietitian who follows a vegetarian diet, promotes no-nonsense, plant-based cooking so that eating is both healthful and enjoyable. Janel has a masterís degree in nutrition communication from Tufts University in Boston.

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Janel's Vegetarian Kitchen

by Janel Ovrut, MS, RD, LDN

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Fats are often looked at as a negative part of your diet, but the fact about fats is that they're necessary and important to eat daily!

Your body cannot exist without fat which stores important vitamins, such as D, A, K and E. These vitamins are needed to maintain good health. Fat also keeps us satisfied and adds flavor to foods.

The trick is to eat the right forms of fat and to meet -- but not exceed -- your body's needs.

A good general rule of thumb is to keep fat intake between 20-35% of your daily calories.

Let's say you strive for 25% and you're on a 1,600 calorie/day diet. That means 400 calories/day should come from fat... no more. There are 9 calories in a gram of fat, so 400/9 = 44g fat per day.

But don't stop there! The healthy hint is that the majority of your fat intake should be from unsaturated fats (to include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats). These are healthy fats that we should be eating more of.

Foods that have these healthy fats are fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), walnuts, almonds, flax seed/flax oil, olives, avocados and olive oil. These fats are good for our heart and keep us satisfied so it is important to include them in the daily diet.

Your saturated fat intake (that's the unhealthy fat) should be no more than 7% of your calories, so on a 1,600 calorie/day diet, that is no more than 12g of saturated fat per day, or even lower if you can!

Saturated fat is found mainly in animal products like dairy (unless it is fat free), meat, cheese, eggs, chicken, etc. If you're following a vegetarian diet, this is a great way to cut out high levels of saturated fat found in meat. However keep in mind saturated fat still exists in dairy and eggs.

Saturated fat is also in many baked goods and junk foods, such as chips. Try to eat lean cuts of meat, non-fat dairy, and reduce your red meat intake to no more than one serving per week for the best health benefits.

Then there is trans fat. You want to keep that to ZERO! It is unhealthy and harmful to our bodies.

It can be found in some baked goods and processed foods. Even if a package claims, "No trans fats," there could potentially be 0.5g or fewer of trans fat per serving, which -- thanks to a legal loophoole -- can be labeled as ZERO. How will you know? Look on the nutrition label for the words "partially hydrogenated oil" in the ingredient list. If it is an ingredient, then you know the product contains trans fats.

It's time to face the fat facts and choose the heart healthy ones daily!

If you hunger for great meatless recipes, be sure to check out the 700+ vegetarian recipes served up daily right here at Diet.com!

Janel Ovrut Funk, MS RD LDN is a Registered Dietitian who follows a vegetarian diet. She promotes no-nonsense, plant-based cooking so that eating is both healthful and enjoyable. Janel has a master's degree in nutrition communication from Tufts University in Boston, MA. You can read many more of her blog posts at EatWellWithJanel.com.

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