Back in the 1990s, there was a low-fat craze that, ironically, left the U.S. fatter than ever. Why? Because countless new fat-free foods were introduced – and we somehow felt justified eating them in excess. (“I can eat this entire box of chocolate cookies. They’re fat free!”)

Of course, fat free does not mean calorie free, which many of us realized when we could no longer zip our pants. But we’re wiser now. We know that some fats, like those in salmon and avocados, are good for us. We know that whole, unprocessed foods beat the nutritional pants off packaged, processed stuff. We know about moderation.

So maybe it’s time to give a low-fat diet a second chance. It can actually be great for you, whether you want to shed some pounds or lower your cholesterol. Here are some basics you should know about a modern, low-fat diet:

  1. How much fat you’ll consume depends on the diet you choose. Dietary guidelines suggest adults should limit their total fat intake to no more than 20 to 35 percent of their total daily calories – but 20 percent has been considered “low fat” in some studies.
  1. Eat plenty of foods rich in lean protein, whether from animal sources (chicken, fish) or plants (beans, tofu). This rice noodle veggie-tofu salad is low in fat, loaded with flavor and very filling.
  1. When you eat grains, make sure they’re whole grains (not those fat-free cookies). Brown rice, whole-grain pasta and oatmeal are naturally very low in fat. (We love steel-cut oats with blueberry-cinnamon compote.)
  1. Be sure your diet has a diversity of fruits and vegetables, and find healthy, low-fat ways to enjoy them. This flavorful escarole and bean saute doesn’t even need oil.
  1. Break out the measuring cups and spoons. A serving of oil, butter or mayonnaise is just one teaspoon.

Author: Hope Cristol