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Cancer Risk and Prevention

Low-Fat Foods

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 have to 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
  • Neufchatel or “light” cream cheese or fat-free cream cheese
  • Fat-free American cheese or other types of fat-free cheeses

Fish, meat, poultry, and other protein

  • Egg whites or egg substitutes
  • Crab, white fish, shrimp, and light tuna (packed in water)
  • Chicken and turkey breast (without skin), or ground turkey breast
  • The American Cancer Society recommends a healthy eating pattern that limits or doesn't include processed and red meats, but if you choose to eat them, choose lean cuts (look for "loin" in the name), or extra-lean ground beef. Braise, roast, or cook them without adding fats.
  • Beans, peas, and lentils, cooked (or canned) without added fats or fatty meats (grains or cereal in your daily food intake make this add up to a complete protein)
  • 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). Choose whole grain versions like brown rice
  • Whole grain bagels, pita bread, or English muffins
  • Low-fat crackers and breads
  • Soft tortillas – corn or whole wheat

Fruits and vegetables

  • Fruits, including fresh, frozen, or canned (in their own juice)
  • Vegetables, including fresh, frozen, or canned (choose lower-sodium varieties)

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. They should be used in small amounts by people on low-fat diets:

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

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

  • 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)

  • 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/Cancer Support Community

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

Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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