+ -Text Size

Low-Fat Foods

Watching the amount of fat you eat is important: Diets that are high in fat are often high in calories and can lead to weight gain. Ounce for ounce, fats contain more calories than carbohydrates or proteins, but it’s important to keep in mind that just because something is low in fat doesn’t mean it’s low in calories.

A good rule of thumb when you’re reading food labels: For every 100 calories, if the product has 3 grams of fat or less, it’s a low-fat product. This means 30% or less of the calories come from fat.

Foods like margarine, mayonnaise, and some salad dressings that get most of their calories from fat must have half or less than half the fat of the regular version of the food to be called “light.” These foods don’t usually meet the 30% cutoff for number of calories from fat to be considered low-fat. (See “Other foods” below.)

Low-fat foods to choose from

Dairy and dairy-like products

  • Low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) yogurt, cottage cheese, or milk
  • Sorbet, sherbet, gelatin ices, and low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt
  • Neufchatel or “light” cream cheese or fat-free cream cheese
  • Fat-free American cheese or other types of fat-free cheeses

Fish, meat, and poultry

  • Egg whites or egg substitutes
  • Crab, white fish, shrimp, and light tuna (packed in water)
  • Veal, chicken and turkey breast (without skin), and lean cuts of other meats (look for “loin” in the name) – braise, roast, or cook them without adding fats
  • Extra lean ground beef such as ground round, or ground turkey breast (check the labels)
  • Veggie burgers

Grains, cereals, and pastas

  • Hot (oatmeal or grits) and cold cereals (except granola types)
  • Rice or noodles (watch out for fat in sauces you may add)
  • Bagels, pita bread, or English muffins
  • Low-fat crackers
  • Soft tortillas – corn or whole wheat
  • Toast, English muffins, or bagels with jelly or honey (no butter)
  • Pretzels, soda crackers, or plain breads

Fruits and vegetables

  • Fruits and fruit juices, applesauce
  • Vegetables and vegetable juices (again, watch out for fat in sauces you may add)

Snacks and sweets

  • Danish pudding and fruit pie fillings
  • Vanilla wafers and ginger snap cookies
  • Gelatin
  • Angel food cake
  • Puddings made with skim milk
  • Baked chips, tortilla or potato
  • Low-fat microwave popcorn
  • Hard and jelly candies

Other foods

  • Broth type soups with a vegetable base
  • Sauces, pudding, or shakes made with skim milk
  • Salsa
  • Mustard

These foods supply half the fat (or less) than the regular version of the food, but most of their calories still come from fat:

  • Light margarine and mayonnaise
  • Reduced-calorie or fat-free salad dressings
  • Non-stick cooking spray

To learn more

More information from your American Cancer Society

Here is more information you might find helpful. You also can order free copies of our documents from our toll-free number, 1-800-227-2345, or read them on our Web site, www.cancer.org.

American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention (also in Spanish)

Diet and Physical Activity: What's the Cancer Connection?

Dietary Supplements: What Is Safe?

Nutrition and Physical Activity During and After Cancer Treatment: Answers to Common Questions

Nutrition for Children With Cancer (also in Spanish)

Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment: A Guide for Patients and Families (also in Spanish)

Understanding Food Labels

Your American Cancer Society also has books that you might find helpful. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or visit our bookstore online to find out about costs or to place an order.

National organizations and Web sites*

Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of information and support include:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Web site: www.eatright.org

    For information on diet, nutrition, and various nutrition topics; also has a searchable directory of registered dietitians, including dietitians specializing in oncology nutrition

Food and Nutrition Information Center, US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Phone number: 301-504-5414 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-Friday)
TTY: 301-504-6856
Web site: fnic.nal.usda.gov

    Offers information on dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals and herbs; education on dietary guidelines; food nutrition facts, including fast food; and information on food safety

The Wellness Community
Toll-free number: 1-888-793-9355
Web site: www.thewellnesscommunity.org

    Offers nutrition information for before, during, and after cancer treatment

No matter who you are, we can help. Contact us anytime, day or night, for information and support. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.

References

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health. Low-Calorie, Lower Fat Alternative Foods. Accessed at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/lcal_fat.htm on March 6, 2013.

Last Medical Review: 03/11/2013
Last Revised: 03/11/2013