Cutting Fat = Cutting Calories

Because fat provides more than twice as many calories (9 calories per gram) as carbohydrates and protein (4 calories per gram), choosing more foods naturally low in fat is a helpful strategy for achieving your health and calorie intake goals.

Aim for a fat intake of approximately 20% to 30% of total daily calories. You should also shoot for with less than 10% of calories from saturated fat. It’s best to limit saturated fat from your diet because it is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as fatty cuts of meat, fried foods, butter, whole milk products, and cheese.

This chart shows the recommended fat intake for different calorie levels:

Aim For Low-fat Eating
Total Calories per Day Total Fat in Grams Total Saturated Fat in Grams
1,000 22-33 11 or less
1,200 27-40 13 or less
1,400 31-47 15 or less
1,600 36-53 18 or less
1,800 40-60 20 or less
2,000 44-67 22 or less
2,200 49-73 24 or less

To Reduce Your Fat Intake:

  • Choose whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry without the skin, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Limit your use of butter, margarine, cheese, oils and full-fat salad dressings.
  • Use low-fat or nonfat alternatives and low-fat cooking methods when possible.
  • When eating out, ask that gravy, butter, sauces and salad dressing be served on the side.

Personalize Your Fat Intake

You can determine the best number of grams of fat for you by first getting your daily calorie estimate at the Stand Up & Eat “Calorie Needs” tool.

Once you know your exact number of daily calories, multiply it by .20. This will give you the number of fat calories if fat was 20% of your total daily calories. Then divide your fat calories by 9 to get your daily fat grams.

For example, say you need 1,649 calories per day.
1,649 x .20 = 330 fat calories;
330 fat calories / 9 = 37 grams of total fat per day

1,649 x .10 = 165 saturated fat calories
165 saturated fat calories / 9 = 18 grams of saturated fat per day


Did you know???

Food (amount) Total Fat (grams) Saturated Fat (grams)
Romaine lettuce (6 cups) 0.6 0.0
Blueberries (2 cups) 1.6 0.2
1% milk (1 cup) 2.6 1.6
Baked chicken breast (no skin; 3 ounces) 3.1 0.9
Potato chips (1 ounce; who eats just one ounce?!) 9.8 3.1
Ice cream (1 cup) 15.8 9.8
T-bone steak (3 ounces cooked) 16.7 6.6
Regular Ranch Dressing (2 Tablespoons) 17.0 2.5
American cheese (2 ounces) 17.8 11.2
McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich 29.0 10.0

As you can see, fat grams can add up fast! You can track your actual fat gram intake using the Stand Up and & Eat Food Log. Click here to download the log. You’ll see a column where you can track calories. Use it instead to track the amount of fat in the foods you eat (or track both!). Compare your daily total to what is recommended for you. Bet you’ll be surprised! You will surely see how cutting fat is a healthy and easy way to cut calories.

Rule of Thumb
When reading a food label allow 3 grams of fat for every 100 calories – this is approximately 30% of calories from fat.

Originally printed in Stand Up (more) and Eat (better) The Cooper Institute