How much fat should I eat a day?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 17 August 2011.
Tagged: fat, guides, health, healthy cooking, healthy eating, overweight

How much fat should I eat a day?

How much fat to eat is not a simple issue. You have to take into consideration not only how much but what type to eat as well as whether you're at risk of high cholesterol, heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

One or two tablespoons of a good oil or some nuts, avocado, wheatgerm, salad dressing or mayonnaise a day is enough. The trouble is most of us exceed this intake well and truly.

No specific figure for fat

There are no official recommended intakes for fat, as there are for protein, vitamins and minerals. Instead nutrition authorities usually suggest you aim for around 30 per cent of the total kilojoules (Calories) you consume to be in the form of fat.

At 30 per cent, you're getting a healthy level of intake, one where you can meet your body's requirements for fatty acids (yes, fatty acids are essential) without overloading it with unwanted kilojoules.

This means a fat intake of anywhere from 40 grams to 85 grams a day depending on your activity level, age, gender and stage of life (children need more fat for their body weight than do adults). See some suggested intakes below and in the table.

30 per cent of your kilojoules from fat translates to

65 grams of total fat a day
for an adult moderately-active woman who's not on a diet and is consuming 8400kJ / 2000 Calories a day

85 grams of total fat a day
for an adult male who's not on a diet (10 500kJ/2500 Calories)

40 grams of total fat a day
for an adult female who wants weight loss (5000kJ/1200 Calories)

Remember this is a figure for total fat. You should also think about the type and quality of the fat – put the emphasis on mono- and polyunsaturated fats in preference to saturated fats.

These numbers are based on your total kilojoule intake, so the more physically active you are, the higher your fat (and total food) intake can be.

How much fat should you eat?

       based on 30% of the kilojoules or Calories being eaten as fat a day

Person Kilojoule (Calorie) intake Fat intake
Women
Moderately-active 8400 (2000) 65g
Sedentary 6300 (1500) 50g
Weight loss 5000 (1200) 40g
Men
Moderately-active 10 500 (2500) 85g
Sedentary 8400 (2000) 65g
Weight loss 6300 (1500) 50g

 How much fat is that?

To give you an idea of how much fat to eat, here's a rough guide:

85 grams of fat translates to:

Oil, 1 tbsp for cooking and salads,  20g
Margarine or mayonnaise, 2 tsp 10g
Avocado, ½,  20g
Milk, low-fat, 1 glass,  6g
Yoghurt, low-fat, 200 g tub, 4g
Almonds or walnuts, handful, 30g, 15g
From fish, meat or chicken, 10g

Total = 85 grams fat

40 grams of fat translates to:

Oil, ½ tbsp for cooking and salads, 10g
Low-fat spread or light mayonnaise, 2 tsp , 6g
Egg,  6g
Milk, skim, 300 mL, 0g
Yoghurt, low-fat, 200 g tub, 4g
Cottage cheese, 200 g tub, 6g
From fish, meat or chicken, 8g

Total = 40 grams fat

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.