Low-fat Diets That Will Help You Stay Fit

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Going on a low-fat diet is a well-known idea for people interested in staying fit and losing weight, but with hundreds of other fancy and fad diets out there, it can be easy to forget about one of the simplest strategies. However, there has been a recent shift in thinking about the place of fat in the diet, as well as recognition that some types of fat are good for the body. Before you adopt a certain diet strategy, it is important to understand the specific details, along with the diet’s potential effects and challenges.

Low-fat Diet for Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight, a low-fat diet is an excellent choice, but many people are also tempted to go on a low-carb diet. This comes down to a Weight Watchers vs. Atkins Diet problems, cutting down fats or reducing carb intake. In both of these diets, it is possible to lose weight, but research has found that fat-burning is typically higher in a low-fat diet.

The bottom line in terms of losing weight is the creation of a calorie deficit, meaning that you burn more calories than you consume daily. A calorie deficit of approximately 3,500 calories is equivalent to one pound, meaning that if you have a 500-calorie deficit every day for a week, you can shed a single pound. It is possible to create a calorie deficit with any type of diet, but it seems particularly effective on a low-fat diet. The main reason for this is that foods that are high in fat tend to also be high in calories. [1]

A heart shape plate of cholesterol diet (beet, legumes, broccoli, tomato, radish, beet, onion etc.) with a stethoscope

Foods that help to reduce cholesterol. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

That being said, a low-fat diet doesn’t mean eliminating all the fats in your meal plan. There are numerous invaluable functions of fat in the body. You can find cholesterol in every single cell of the body. Maintaining a balance of these fats and choosing healthy fats like monounsaturated fats, versus trans fats or saturated fats is what can lead to proper cholesterol levels, weight loss, and an overall improvement in health.

Why Choose a Low-fat Diet?

The benefits of a low-fat diet include reducing cardiovascular disease risk, preventing obesity and ensuring balanced nutrient intake, among many others.

Prevention of Heart Diseases

When you reduce the amount of cholesterol you take in, particularly LDL (bad) cholesterol, you lower the amount of cholesterol that is oxidized and deposited in the arteries and blood vessels as plaque. This can help slow the breakdown of arteries and blood vessels and strengthen your cardiovascular system. Eating “good” forms of fat can also help improve this cholesterol balance and prevent heart diseases. [2]

Weight Loss

The obvious benefit of a low-fat diet is the creation of a calorie deficit that leads to weight loss. For people who are obese, cutting 30% of your fat intake per week can result in 1-2 pounds of weight loss in a single week. However, it is important to remember that a low-fat diet alone won’t lead to weight loss. It should also be complemented with a balanced diet of other nutrients, as well as proper exercises. [3]

Balanced Nutrient Intake

If you are avoiding the high-calorie and high-fat foods that used to define your diet, you will have to expand your food options considerably, which gives you a better chance of eating a balanced diet. Eating more vegetables, fruits, grains, and low-fat dairy products will increase the mineral, vitamin and antioxidant variety in your diet. [4]

Lower Blood Pressure

Low-fat diets have been linked to decreased blood pressure and a reduction in stress on the heart. This can help to lower your risk of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. [5]

Strengthened Immune System

In comparison to low-carb diets, a low-fat diet helps the body improve its immune response and limit the release of pro-inflammatory molecules. This will lower the risk of chronic disease and improve the overall functioning of the metabolism and organ systems.

Tips for Low-fat Cooking

If you’re looking for advice on low-fat cooking, try steaming or broiling your foods, including a good range of foods in your diet, and move away from traditional protein sources.

Cooking Style

If you’ve never tried to broil, steam or puree your food before, it can be an excellent way to enjoy the food you love, while also reducing your fat intake. Cooking methods like boiling or steaming, which don’t require a cooking oil like frying, can provide a rich and flavorful dish without immediately adding hundreds of calories. Other cooking styles, such as broiling, allows fat to cook off and be eliminated.

Variety in Your Meals

It can be difficult to stick to a low-fat diet, but if your meals are interesting and delicious, you are far more likely to stick with a diet. Use low-fat foods from every different food group, from grains and vegetables to dairy products and fats. Take time to find new recipes that feature some of the low-fat foods you want to incorporate into your everyday diet. [6]

New Protein Sources

One of the hardest obstacles in a low-fat diet is cutting back on red meat, which is where a lot of fats can be found. You should seek out lean protein sources, both in animal products (fish, chicken, turkey, etc.) and plant products (quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, etc.). This will give you the raw material (amino acids) you need, without contributing high levels of unnecessary fat. [7]

Low-fat Eating Plan

Developing an effective eating plan can often be the hardest part of starting a new diet, so try following this simple example guide for a day of your low-fat diet. It will help you understand what a proper low-fat diet may consist of, or represent an ideal target for where your eating habits should be.


For breakfast, a low-fat plan might include a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, a banana, orange juice and a cup of green tea. There is very little cholesterol, but a decent amount of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.


Your mid-day meal might consist of a small tuna sandwich on whole-wheat bread and a cup of low-sodium soup, as well as an apple and a big glass of ice water. This will provide a boost of energy and a feeling of fullness that lasts for hours.


Your snacks can range from celery sticks or carrots to low-fat unsalted microwave popcorn and pretzels. Avoid sugary or fast-food sides.


A lean filet of salmon or a turkey breast, along with corn salad, a side of brown rice, and a glass of wine could be an ideal low-fat dinner.

4 Ways the Low-fat Diet Can Harm Your Health

While the benefits of a low-fat diet are weight loss and improved heart health, among others, there can be some risks, such as dangerously low fat intake, nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, and insulin resistance.

Nutrient Deficiencies

By avoiding foods that contain fat, such as dairy products or protein sources, you could be denying your body other vital nutrients it needs, including certain forms of fat that can protect the heart. [8]

Low Cholesterol

Dangerously low levels of cholesterol can put a strain on the liver to produce an adequate amount for the body. If you don’t have enough fat in your body, it can cause problems in muscle function and cognition, as well as inflammation and increases your risk of chronic diseases.


Some studies show that an extremely low-fat diet can cause hormonal fluctuations, particularly in women after menopause. Fat is required for certain hormonal processes, and a sharp decline in fat intake could cause dangerous fluctuations in hormone levels. [9]

Low-fat Diet Foods

There are a few excellent low-fat diet foods that you should add to your daily or weekly regimen, including skinless turkey breasts, egg whites, white fish, beans and lentils, fat-free dairy options, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, among others.

  • Fat-Free Dairy – Low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, skim milk
  • Beans and Lentils – Dense with protein and low in fat, along with many other minerals and antioxidants.
  • White Fish – Rich in omega-3, there are fats in this type of fish, but they are a good form that can improve heart health and decrease the impact of “bad” cholesterol.
  • Egg Whites – With less fat than the egg yolk, egg whites can deliver protein and minerals, but eliminates much of the cholesterol in an egg.
  • Turkey/Chicken Breasts – Unlike red meat, skinless turkey and chicken breasts are relatively low in fat but high in protein.
  • Fruits – rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, but low in calories and fats.
  • Vegetables – High in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, but low in calories and “bad” fats.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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