The Skinny on Healthy Fats …. What You Need to Know

Let’s follow up the Healthy Living 101 post with something equally as important, Healthy Fats.  What’s the “skinny” on healthy fats?  Isn’t that a loaded question.  If you are in your 40s, you probably spent a bit of time eliminating fats from your diet during the “Fat Free” craze of the 90s.  How many Snackwells did you eat?  I ate a lot.  I was skinny.  I was not strong.  Well, “Strong is the New Skinny”, right?  The neat thing about being in my 40s is that I no longer care what is “in” or what is “cool”.  Not that I was ever
“in” or “cool”, let’s be clear on that.  But my focus now is laser sharp on me.  What makes me feel good. What doesn’t.  I’ve discovered that healthy fats are essential to our diets.  All of us.  Not just athletes.  Not just people who want to lose weight or get strong.  This is what I’ve learned, feel free to use whatever possible to help you and your family.  And the disclaimer still stands.  I’m not a nutritionist, registered dietician, or health coach.  I’m just an enthusiast who wants to feel good each and every day and I want the same for you.   

1.  What are Healthy Fats?  Healthy fats are fats that are found naturally in food.  Real, whole foods.  Once a food is processed, then natural fats are generally stripped out to modify the food in some way.  Dairy is a perfect example.  Cows produce one type of milk.  One kind.  Yet, there are how many different options of milk at the supermarket?  Whole (real milk), 2%, Skim, 1%, Chocolate, Strawberry, etc.  Take this a bit further to the yogurt aisle and depending on where you shop, you may not even be able to find real, whole milk (grassfed) yogurt.  The food industry processes dairy products to strip out fat & insert sugar, fake sugars & flavors to make it taste better.  The sugar & chemicals inserted by the food industry activate the same part of our brains as the drug heroine.  Its addictive.  If we are addicted to sugar & chemical laden foods, we eat and BUY more of it. 

So if you want to eat healthy fats, you need to stick with whole foods.  And as always, buy organic and from reputable brands to ensure that you are getting the best possible nutrients that are not contaminated.  See the list of foods below that will offer the best healthy fats available:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts  & Seeds – Raw, unsalted nuts.  Almonds, Macadamia Nuts, Walnuts, Chia Seeds, Flaxseed, etc.
  • Nut & Seed Butters – Be careful with these!  Look for Natural, Organic products.  Always read the ingredient list.  It should be short and just include the particular nut/seed + maybe salt.  See the ingredient list from the one I just pulled from my cabinet for reference:  Organic Roasted Peanuts, Contains 1% or Less of Salt.

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  • Full Fat Dairy – Organic, Grassfed, if possible.
  • Eggs  – Farm Raised, Locally Sourced, if possible.  You want chickens that are walking around eating bugs and different plant materials.  They will make the best nutrient dense eggs.
  • Salmon and Tuna  – Wild Ocean Caught, not farm raised.  Sustainability is an issue with anything from the ocean; however, farm raised fish has issue with diseases due to dense populations.  Secondly, farm raised fish are usually fed a kibble type product that is a combination of soy & corn, among other things.  The majority of soy & corn in the US is contaminated with GMOs.  Lastly, farmed fish, salmon in particular have up to 50% less Omega 3s, the healthy fat that you’re looking for in the first place.  PLEASE NOTE – If you shop at Costco or places that sell “fresh” fish, look at the ingredients label.  I noticed awhile back that most of the “fresh” salmon at a major retailer, has dye injected into the fish, along with preservatives, to keep the salmon looking pretty as it sits on the shelf.   I buy frozen Wild Caught Sockeye Salmon now. 
  • Olives – Check ingredient labels.  A lot of olives have extra “stuff” in the ingredient list that we don’t need.
  • Oils – Avocado, Coconut, Nut/Seed Oils (Walnut, Pine, Cashew, etc), Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil.  Be careful with Olive Oil, many of those sold in the US are not a good quality or contaminated with GMOs.  I tend to use Avocado Oil as my default. Good reputation.  Nice Consistency and great flavor.

See the graphic below for additional healthy fat options:

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2.  Why Healthy Fats?  This was certainly a BIG question for me personally after avoiding fats for so many years.  The idea of buying full fat milk and real butter was just almost more than I could wrap my brain around.  However, the science is there.  Real science that’s waiting to be read, shared & acknowledged.

  • Supports brain function.  Our brains are made up of fat themselves, almost 60% actually.  Healthy fats stimulate new brain cell growth and improves memory.  Helps the absorption of key nutrients that are required for cognitive health.  Protects the brain from toxins.  And improves mood & alleviates depression.
  • Supports Metabolism.  Increase fat burning and energy production.
  • Keeps us full between meals.  Fats are burned at a slower rate.  They also trigger the release of hormones to tell our body we are full.  Keeping us satisfied longer.
  • Helps the body absorb key nutrients.
  • Improves body composition thanks to increased fat burning capabilities.
  • Builds muscle faster.

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Image Source from The ChalkboardMag.com

3.  How Much Healthy Fat Do We Need?  THIS is the million dollar question.  I think we have a bit of a “fat” craze going on right now.  Many of my friends are super skinny after adopting a ketosis type diet.  Terms like Metabolic Efficiency and Fat Burner are becoming common.  Carb Cycling is happening at every gym in the area.  So what’s normal, for someone who just wants to be healthy?  It looks like the the average dose of healthy fats for a normal person is 2-3 servings per day.  What’s a serving?  1 TBS of a clean oil or a thumb size chunk of an avocado.  Or a few nuts in the palm of your hand.  If you have salmon for dinner, plus a veggie & half of a sweet potato with butter, then count that as 2 servings of fat.  The salmon & the butter on the sweet potato.  When its broken down like that, its not so hard. 

4. Warning About Healthy Fats.  Super easy to overeat. Fats taste GOOD!  Yum!!  I’ve been eating healthy for years but just consciously added healthy fats into my diet over the last year & a half.  Initially I did too much!  I even used a Metabolic Efficiency program once but the guidelines were very loose.  The participants kept asking “how much fat do we need?”.  The program designers would just say, “eat some with every meal”.  Some?  How much is that?  So I’d eat 3 eggs with a side of avocado & bacon.  Or Avocado Mayo Egg Salad with a side of Avocado.  Salmon, 1/2 sweet potato w/ butter & a salad with avocado oil dressing. 

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Everything tasted AMAZING but I suffered from free styling the program.  There weren’t set guidelines.  No macro counting.  Not enough information for me & I was doing it wrong.  I didn’t feel awesome.  I gained weight.  Yep.  Too much healthy fat!

I’m currently doing a carb cycling program with HiggsLifestyle.  Lots of info.  We were told exactly what to eat, in what portions & exactly how much fat.  Our current fat percentage is about 50% of our daily diet.  THIS is working for me.  I’ve dropped all my weight that I’ve been holding onto for the last several years.  However, this may not be the right combo for everyone.  My sister is currently doing a carb cycling program with her gym & they are using 70% fat for the day.  I know from past experience that this would probably be too much for me but its working for her and the participants in that program. Bottom line, there are lots of different programs currently focusing on healthy fats & how to kick start the metabolism as a result.  Be careful & don’t get stuck in one that doesn’t work for you.  Be dedicated to yourself, your health and finding what works for your body.  And know that if weight loss (better body composition) isn’t something you need, then 2-3 servings of healthy fats each day will lead to optimal health.  Adjust as needed based on how you feel, that’s just the guideline.

As always, the healthiest eating plan is one that is focused on natural, organic, whole foods.  Eat a rainbow of colors.  Each color of fruit/vegetable has different nutrients.  Make food a priority in your life, not just an afterthought on the way home from practice or a sporting event.  Incorporate all aspects of foods:  Lean proteins, lots of veggies (some fruit), healthy carbs (legumes, brown rice, quinoa & sweet potatoes) & healthy fats.  Drink water.  Keep your daily added sugars under 24g per day (36g for men).  Limit or avoid alcohol & sugary beverages/treats.   Good luck, all. We have one life.  One body.  Let’s do the best for it that we are able. 

** That’s the Skinny On Healthy Fats ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Healthy Living 101 … Comprehensive How To Guide For Busy Families

At a point in time when families are becoming busier every day, there are a lot of excuses floating around as to why we don’t have time to be healthy.  Why we don’t have time to make real food for ourselves and our families.    Why we can’t exercise.  Why our bodies are tired and broken. The majority of people are becoming more tired, sicker and heavier.  The food, medical & pharmaceutical industries are booming businesses, becoming wealthier every day.  Lets think about this for a minute.  How do you feel?  How do your kids feel?  Is it possible to make some small adjustments that will pay huge dividends in regards to the health of you and your family?

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Let me help you by sharing some of the things I have learned over the years.   Disclosure:  I’m not a nutritionist, registered dietician, health coach or have any certifications to my name.  I’m a health & wellness enthusiast who has spent countless hours and dollars researching food and nutrition.  Feel free to use any information provided to make the best life possible for you and your family.  Know that nobody is perfect.  That’s not the goal.  Overall health, making the best choices possible and FEELING GOOD is what’s really important.  Side effects may include:  weight loss, happiness, enhanced performance, more $$ in the bank for vacations, less $$ going out to healthcare. 

1.  Clean Proteins & Veggies.  Most of my audience resides in the United States.  Therefore, the majority of our food is contaminated with chemicals.  Pesticides.  Growth Hormones.  Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).  Antibiotics.  Etc, etc.  Although we’ve been told our entire lives that these “additives” are not harmful to our health, there are studies that prove otherwise.  Whether you agree or disagree about the necessity of “clean” foods, you may want to do some research on the topic.  There is a reason why organics, “non GMO”, antibiotic/hormone free is now showing up on signs and packaging at the supermarket.  What can you change?

  • Buy Organic
  • Read labels if you are buying processed foods.  Look for ingredients that you recognize.  Short, simple ingredient lists. 
  • Find your local Co-Op (click for a list of some co-ops per state, mine isn’t on there so list is not complete, just a reference) for clean foods and info on local farmers.
  • Buy in bulk directly from the farmer.  This may require investing in a chest type freezer for the garage but clean grass-fed beef, poultry, pork and wild caught seafood will go a long way to keep the family healthy.
  • Local Farmers Market.  While many of you may not frequent the local co-op for fresh veggies year round, most do have local Farmers Markets with seasonal fruits & veggies!  Make it a weekly stop for the family.  Let the kids pick out new fruits & veggies they have never tried!

2.  Be prepared.  Yes, FOOD PREP is a must!  As life gets busier, the pizza delivery man knows most of us by first name.  What kind of night is it?  Pizza, Chinese, Fast Food?  Let’s be honest.  How many times a week do you eat or carry out food?  Is it really necessary?  Sometimes, yes.  Most of the time, no.  A little thought goes a long way.  As I started this post, I went to my fridge to see exactly what I had prepped and ready to eat, now.  Yes, like right now.  Or within a minute or two of plating. 

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This is what I pulled, ready to go from my fridge.  I’m not even counting the leftover ham & mashed potatoes from last night, the chili from Super Bowl Sunday OR the pizza that hubby ordered on Monday while I was in Chicago for work. This is food I personally eat.  Starting from left top:  quinoa, ground turkey, roasted broccoli & asparagus.  Left bottom:  roasted sweet potatoes, shredded chicken, and two individual portions of sautéed veggies & turkey with 1 TBS avocado oil (full meal, ready for me to consume without any additional time unless I’d like to warm it up).  My lunch from today is below.  Chicken, broccoli & asparagus, all from above.

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Is that overwhelming?  Probably as a whole, yes.  But I’m a normal person too!  I didn’t do this all at once.  I don’t believe in “meal prep Sunday” where people spend an entire day prepping food for the week.  It does not have to be that time consuming.  I toss in an XL baking tray of veggies when I notice I’m getting low on veggies.  I’ll use whatever I have on hand.  I like the colorful shortcut carrots, precut broccoli & cauliflower, brussels sprouts, zucchini, green beans.  Really anything I can get easily.  I buy in bulk at Costco.  One giant bag of precut broccoli, yes please!  I rinse, then toss on an XL baking sheet.  Drizzle with Avocado Oil, Himalayan Pink Sea Salt & garlic powder.  Mix by hand to coat veggies with a little oil/seasoning.  In the oven at 410 for 30 minutes and walk away. Cut veggies pictured below.  I cute up 3-4 zucchini (big chunks) & threw a bag of multi colored shortcut carrots on the baking tray.  Probably took me 2 minutes once I had the zucchini cut & everything tossed with a little oil/salt/pepper/garlic.

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Yesterday, I threw a bag of frozen chicken in the crockpot on high.  I added spices.  Sometimes I add a jar of salsa.  Sometimes, I use taco seasoning (non gmo, gluten free).  Sometimes, I go with Italian spices. Cook on high a couple hours.  Shut off.  Let cool.  Shred.  If you aren’t home during the day, use a crock pot with a timer.  Your crockpot can be your BEST friend when it comes to preplanning meals and food prepping.

Over the weekend, I browned 2#s of turkey with a box of mushrooms & various spices.  Last week, I dumped an entire bag of frozen shrimp (tails off!) into a pan, added butter, lemon, Cajun seasons & a bag of frozen green beans.  Let cook down, pour off liquid, put in a container for future meals.

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I cook in bulk.  If I make stir-fry, I do 3x the veggies & protein that I want for one meal, then immediately divide upon cooking into containers for other days.  I frequently do these things when I’m already in the kitchen cooking something for the family.  Or when I’m making lunches.  Time management.  Use your time to the best of your ability.  Stir-fry below:  Various veggies & ground turkey (any protein will work, use whatever you have prepped in the fridge).

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Enough about food prep.  I’m sure you get the picture.  If you don’t already hate me because I’m firing the pizza delivery guy, then just wait!

3.  Protein Powder, Shakes & Smoothies!  Say hello to a very controversial topic. We all have to decide for OURSELVES what we want to put in our bodies.  Maybe you have clear cut guidelines for yourself, maybe you don’t.  Regardless, beware of what Jane Doe & her friends are selling you. A few suggested guidelines are listed below:

  • Ingredients matter.  Look at the ingredient list.  Can you recognize what’s listed?  Can you recognize sugars & fake sugars alike?  Did you know that women are only allowed 24g of added sugar per day (36g for men)?  How many grams of sugar per serving?  Did you know that ingredients are listed in descending order.  Meaning the ingredient with the LARGEST quantity, is listed first.  So if the first ingredient is xxxxbitol or xxxxulose, that means the biggest ingredient is a fake sugar.  Be informed. 
  • Artificial anything in a shake or protein powder is not desired.  Jane Doe may tell you that some of the deadliest things on Earth are found in nature.  That is true!  But at least I know what I’m up against (and not to eat it!).  I don’t know or understand what that artificial ingredient, made in the lab, is going to do to my body. 
  • If it tastes like a milk shake, then it’s a milkshake.  I’m tired of hearing complaints on the taste of a decent protein powder.  Grow up.  Clean up your diet.  Cut the sugar.  Then you’ll get your taste buds back and realize that real food actually tastes good.  You shouldn’t need sugar, fake sugar and/or artificial flavors to be able to swallow food.  This is about nutrition, what your body needs, YOUR health.  

Some great protein powders that I’ve tried are below, these 3 are vegetable based (Vega One, SunWarrior, & Aloha – I have no affiliation with any of these products).  Also a peak at how my smoothies look.  I change up the ingredients but they always taste great.   My two favorites:  1 Scoop Chocolate Protein, 1 TB Natural PB, 2 Handfuls of spinach, Ice, Water.   Or 1 scoop Vanilla Protein, 1/4 cup blueberries, 1 TB Coconut Oil, 1-2 Handfuls of Spinach, Dash of Cinnamon, Ice, Water.  Both produce green smoothies but I can’t taste the spinach.  I swear.  If the green color grosses you out, try it with your eyes closed.  Good, I promise!

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  • Fruit in your smoothie!  Fruit is better than sugar, right?  Yes.  But fruit converts to sugar and some fruits are inflammatory.  I’m not going to tell you to never eat a banana but if you are looking for weight loss as a side effect of your healthy eating, then you need to drop the banana & grab the blueberries.  See the list of anti-inflammatory foods below from LiveLoveFruit.  Inflammation may lead to Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, Anxiety, Allergies, Brain Fog &  Excess body fat, to name a few.

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4. Supplements.  Another million dollar question.  Do you need them?  NOT a one size fits all answer.  If you are eating a CLEAN, anti-inflammatory diet with lots of leafy greens, then you don’t need a lot of extras.  A few items that may be beneficial, depending on your lifestyle are listed below.  But once again, ingredients matter.  Use reputable companies!   

  • D3 – I’m sure you’ve heard of the benefits of being outdoors in the sunlight?  D3 is the answer if there is no sun.  Some call it the “Sunshine Vitamin”.  D3  can increases immunities, increase bone/joint/teeth health, regulate mood, help the absorption of calcium & phosphorous (imperative for bone health) & fight cancer.
  • Probiotics – Healthy Bacteria!  Focus is gut & immune health.  Lots of natural probiotics so you don’t need to automatically grab for a capsule.  Use active live culture yogurts (if you can do dairy), Keifir, Sauerkraut or Kimchi.  You’ll specifically find the ever popular Kombucha missing from this list.  It contains a small amount of alcohol which turns to sugar and its relatively controversial. 
  • Omega 3 – Commonly known as “fish oil”.  Omega 3 is the ONLY Omega you need.  Don’t get pulled into the supplements that offer 3, 6 & 9.  Your body only needs “extra” of the 3.  We get enough 6 in our diet.  And our body makes enough 9 that we don’t need to supplement.  Omega 3 helps to fight inflammation (and related diseases), helps improve cognitive function & brain health.  I’ve also read that it’s good for skin health.  If you eat a lot of fatty fish, like salmon, you can probably skip this one.  Its also found naturally in nuts & seeds.
  • Magnesium.  If you’re an athlete, have trouble with constipation, get frequent headaches, have PMS cramps, or you can’t sleep, then Magnesium might be your new best friend.  Magnesium comes in a couple different forms.  Magnesium Citrate is what you want if you are constipated.  Magnesium Glycinate is what you need for everything else:  help getting to sleep, help in muscle repair, headaches, eye twitches, PMS cramping, sore or twitching muscles from physical activity, and it helps calcium absorb.  Its also reported to help with anxiety and increase energy.  If I only had one supplement in my cabinet, it would be magnesium.  You can combine the Magnesium Glycinate & the Magnesium Citrate to get the desired result(s). 

I don’t know about you but my brain is about ready to explode.  That’s all I can personally process for one post.  That’s probably MORE than most can process at one time, if they haven’t been studying this stuff for a long time.  BUT, I wanted it all here, for reference.  You may also be interested in some of my related articles below.  My level of education on nutrition has increased over the years but one thing remains, passion.  I’m passionate about being healthy.  Learning as much as possible.  And living the best life I am able.  I know this isn’t easy, especially if you work, have kids, and are busy.  But its worth it.  I wish each and every one of you the HEALTHIEST life possible. 

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** Go Forth & Be Healthy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz