Eating Healthy: the Basics

1. What is a healthy breakfast?
2. What is a healthy lunch?
3. What is a healthy dinner?
4. How much should I weigh?
5. How many calories should I be eating?
6. What is the best way to lose weight?
7. How can I keep my weight loss goal in mind and stay motivated?
8. What is a healthy weekly weight loss?
9. How to set weight loss goals and make them happen
10. How to keep a food diary, and why it is essential to successful weight loss
11. Are all fats bad for you?
12. Are saturated fats bad for you?
13. Are unsaturated fats good for you?
14. Are carbohydrates bad for you?
15. Is fiber good for you?
16. How to read nutrition/food labels
17. How to plan your weekly menus
18. Why should I eat less salt?
19. What do the sodium (salt) numbers mean on food labels?
20. What is The Mediterranean Diet?
21. Why eating vegetables is good for you
22. Why eating fruit and nuts is good for you
23. Why are cereals and whole grains good for you?
24. What are legumes, and why are they good for you?
25. Why is eating fish good for you?
26. Which fats and oils are good for you?
27. Are dairy products good for you?
28. Which meats should I not eat?
29. Is drinking alcohol good for you?
30. Is it important to measure your ingredients?
31. Are snacks good for you?
32. How to choose the right portion size
33. Can you lose weight with a smaller plate?
34. Eat healthier by cleaning out your pantry
35. Which oils and fats should I keep in my pantry?
35. Which oils and fats are good for you - and when should I use them?
36. Which carbohydrates are good for you?
37. What is the best chicken or turkey for you?
38. Are dairy products good for you?
39. Which nuts and seeds should I eat?
40. Is red meat like beef or pork bad or good for you?
41. Is eating dessert good or bad for you?
42. Is drinking soda bad for you?
43. Is drinking coffee bad for you?
44. How can healthy food taste good? Part 1
45. How can healthy food taste good? Part 2
46. How to eat healthy while eating out
47. Are vitamins and supplements necessary to eat healthy?
48. How to eat healthy while traveling


Eating Healthy: the Basics

Which oils and fats are good for you - and when should I use them?

a slice of wheat toast topped with a pat of butter in the shape of a heart

First and foremost, you should base your choice of fat on what you are going to use it for. I use a variety of fats, carefully and where I feel they will do the most to enhance the flavor and the texture of my recipes.

Here's a guide to what I keep in my cupboard and fridge so that I have the best choices available:


Butter is not bad for you.

Too much butter is bad for you, however, so it is best used in sparing amounts where the flavor will shine through. Rather than use a tablespoon of butter to sauté with, for example, you can use a couple of teaspoons of a mono-unsaturated oil that doesn't have as much flavor combined with a teaspoon of butter. Virgin or light olive oil is a great choice and the rich flavor of the butter will come through, but there's much less saturated fat.

I keep unsalted butter on hand always. There is simply no substitute. Butter adds a richness to sauces that no other ingredient can. I always measure what I need because every teaspoon of butter contains 50 calories and it is easy to pile on extra without enhancing the dish. For most sauces it takes only a teaspoon or so per serving to give that great mellow flavor and velvety texture that only butter can offer.

I also choose the higher butterfat European-style unsalted butter and don't purchase more than a half pound at a time (the equivalent of two sticks). I freeze half and keep the other half in a tightly closed plastic container.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is certainly the oil that gets the most attention. The research from Mediterranean diet studies has shown that olive oil has been clearly linked with lower risk of disease. Why? First and foremost is that olive oil (and most vegetable oils) is high in mono-unsaturated fats, specifically Omega 3 fats which are key to helping prevent heart disease and other illnesses.

The best part, of course, is that like butter, olive oil is full of bright, rich flavors. I choose extra virgin olive oils and use them for recipes where I want to add more flavor. This is especially true for salad dressings and other dishes that are not cooked. The fresh flavor of a great quality (and usually higher priced) oil really comes through.  

Keep your less expensive and further refined virgin olive oil on hand for those dishes that will lose the flavor of the oil when cooked.

Canola Oil (Rapeseed Oil)

The oil from the rapeseed is also very high in monounsaturated fat. Canola oil has very little flavor and I use it for just that reason: occasionally for salad dressings where you don't want to add too much fruitiness. It works great in baked goods as well, adding the fat needed, but one high in monounsaturated fat. Canola oil with an egg yolk or unsalted butter works well to form the basic ingredients in muffins or quick breads.

Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil is another oil that's very high in monounsaturated fat. There is research showing it may even more beneficial than olive oil. In one study published in the Journal of Arteriosclerosis, the test subjects showed a 13 to 14 percent increase in HDL (good) cholesterol with as little a 1 ounce. In another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 1.5 ounces of grapeseed oil substituted for other fats used in recipes resulted in a 7% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol and a 13% increase in HDL levels. Flavor-wise, grapeseed oil has less of the strong fruitiness of olive oil but all of the benefits. It also has a very high smoke point.

That's another important consideration in the choice of oil. "Smoke point" is the temperature at which the oil will begin to smoke. There are a number of factors and one of the most important is how refined the oil is. I like using grapeseed oil because it has a high smoke point.

Sesame Oil

I keep sesame oil on hand for Asian dishes. The flavor is present in so many Asian recipes but people don't often realize how much the sesame oil is contributing to the dish.  

You can choose regular sesame oil but you will get more bang for your buck out of toasted sesame oil. The oil is processed after the seeds have been roasted, bringing out a richer flavor. A couple of teaspoons is all it takes to add a lot of flavor.

The one key for all fats is to remember that they contain a lot of calories. Each teaspoon has about 50 calories, with the main difference being the amount of saturated vs. unsaturated fat. Yes, extra virgin olive oil is good for you, but pouring an unlimited amount in a pan only adds unnecessary calories without improving the texture or flavor of your dish.