Medically reviewed by Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD
Your Smart Shopping Guide for Low-Fat Foods
Finding out which foods are best for your specific DNA is exciting until you’re at the grocery feeling stumped. Based on your genetic makeup, you may need a nutritional plan with low-fat foods. You worry things can get expensive or that you won't do a good job of keeping up with your suggested foods. For these reasons and many others, knowing what to shop for can be intimidating.
This smart shopping guide will assist you when you head to the grocery store. After you read through this article, you will have the tools and information needed to make shopping for your next healthy meal feel like a breeze rather than a chore.
What Are the Low-Fat Foods I Should Be Eating?
The following is a list of some of the best low-fat foods you should consider incorporating into your diet when striving for optimal health and wellness.
Price: $1–$4 per pound, up to $5 if buying pre-packaged salad kits
This diverse group includes broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, bok choy, and many leafy greens—such as kale, collard greens, spring greens, and arugula. While many can be eaten raw, some do require cooking before consumption.
Health Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are not just high in vitamins, minerals, or fiber—they are also excellent sources of glucosinolates.
These compounds contain sulfur and are often responsible for some of those more pungent aromas and spicy tastes people pick up on in certain cuisines. They’re named after the Latin for “crucifix” because the blossoms of their plants resemble a cross.
Cruciferous veggies are low in calories and offer the added benefit of containing phytonutrients. These plant-based compounds help improve chronic inflammation1 and may even decrease your risk of developing cancer during your lifetime.2 They also contain carotenoids, vitamin E, vitamin K, and folate.
In addition to this arsenal of nutrients, dark leafy greens are especially high in vitamins A and C. Research shows that eating leafy greens is linked with improved health outcomes such as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease,3 cancer,4 and diabetes.5 It can also aid in weight management.
How to Prepare Cruciferous Vegetables
Many cruciferous vegetables of this type can be eaten raw—like broccoli, kale, and arugula—but these low-fat foods also taste great cooked. “Riced” cauliflower can be a fun alternative to rice when looking to lower your carb intake, and you might choose to indulge in a handful of roasted Brussels sprouts over white potatoes when looking for a healthy yet delectable snack.
When preparing leafy greens, you can get creative with recipes. Raw kale, spring greens, and arugula make for great or great bases for salads while collard and turnip greens are perfect for cooking and serving as a side dish.
Adding leafy greens into other meals—such as soups, pasta dishes, or stir-fries—is an easy way to bulk up the nutritional density of your dinner or lunch. If you’re not a huge fan of that “green flavor” but want to start practicing healthier habits, try starting your day with a green smoothie! Kale is a great leafy green for smoothies because it can be easily overpowered by the flavors of other ingredients like fruits and nut butters—the key is finding the right combination.
Price: Varies by fruit and season, between $0.35 and $5 per pound
Fruits are versatile, as they can be consumed as snacks, drinks, and even dessert. But they aren’t only delicious—they come with a multitude of health benefits.
Health Benefits of Fruits
Fruits add vitamins, minerals, fiber—which regulates our bodies’ processes—antioxidants, and energy to our diets. They are also naturally low in sodium and fat, so they don’t provide many negative effects. Some, like bananas, even have potassium, which carry electrical charges through our bodies that help regulate muscle contractions, stimulate our nerve impulses, regulate our heartbeats, and help lower blood pressure.6
How to Prepare Fruits
Try pairing your fruit servings with a source of fat or protein to help prevent a sugar spike, arguably one of the few real "negative" fruits can have (besides allergies), as fruits are mostly made up of carbohydrates. If you aren’t a big fan of snacking on fruits, you can get creative by adding them to other recipes—such as smoothies, salads, dressings, salsas, marinades, desserts, and juices.
For a protein-rich snack, try bananas with peanut butter. In a salad, incorporate pomegranate seeds or apple slices for an added sweetness. Strawberries with a dollop of whipped cream can be a perfect dessert, and you can impress friends and family with a savory fruit salsa as a topping for chicken or fish.
Price: $0.50–$1.50 per can
Legumes are actually the fruits and seeds of the Fabaceae family and include many different beans and pods. They come in many different forms—including peas, lentils, peanuts, black beans, chickpeas, soybeans, kidney beans, and navy beans.
Health Benefits of Beans and Legumes
Legumes are high in protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. Like we saw with leafy greens, these low-fat foods are also linked with lowered rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and blood pressure.7 Because they have complex carbohydrates, legumes are a very satisfying food—meaning they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer, so you’re less likely to reach for unhealthy snacks. They contain a relatively low amount of calories and can also work to promote healthy bowels.
How to Prepare Legumes
Beans and legumes are particularly tasty in soup, stews, and any other hearty homestyle meal you’d like to add plant-based protein to. Some legume-focused recipes to try are lentil soup, chili, black beans and rice, and even hummus with some flavorful veggies.
Price: Under $2 per pound
Sweet potatoes are an orange root vegetable that have a slightly different nutrient profile than white potatoes.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium, fiber, and vitamin A—which promotes good vision, bone growth, healthy cell growth, and infection prevention—sweet potatoes are delicious and versatile.
How to Prepare Sweet Potatoes
You can roast and eat sweet potatoes as a side dish or on a salad, mash them, chop them up to add to soups and stews, add them to desserts, or slice and bake them into delicious fries. Because sweet potatoes are high-carbohydrate foods, aim to pair them with a protein or non-starchy vegetable. This will help slow blood glucose absorption and prevent a blood sugar level spike.
Price: $4–$7 per pound
Chicken breast is one of the most versatile cuts of chicken you can use in your meals. The breast is very lean (which is why we are including it in our list of low-fat foods). It can be prepared in many different ways.
Health Benefits of Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is a low-fat, high-protein food. Beyond that, it boasts quite a few vitamins and minerals—including selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin B6, which aids in the production of neurotransmitters and allows brain and nerve cells to communicate with each other so various crucial bodily processes are carried out smoothly.8
How to Prepare Chicken Breast
Chicken breast can be used in so many different recipes. Some favorites are cooked in a stir-fry, baked with veggies and a side of whole grains, shredded in salads, and—rather famously—soup. Chicken is a part of all sorts of cuisines—from Italian chicken parmesan and Mexican fajitas to Indian chicken tikka masala and Jamaican jerk chicken.
Price: $8–$12 per pound when fresh
White-fleshed fish—such as haddock, cod, pollock, tilapia, flounder, and halibut—are a fantastic choice for meals.
Health Benefits of White Fish
White fish are not only low-fat foods but great sources of protein, as well. Additionally, they can contain healthy doses of vitamins and minerals, including niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B-12, and can support metabolism.9 It’s worth noting that fattier oily fish—such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel—are also healthy because they contain omega-3s, which are “good” fats. However, because of their low fat content, white fish are certainly your best seafood option if you are aiming to eat more low-fat foods.
How to Prepare White Fish
Since white fish absorb flavor really well, they can be baked with citrus and various seasonings to amp up the flavor—or mask the flavor if you are a person who isn’t so into things that taste fishy. We recommend pairing your fish with whole grains and vegetables for a complete, palatable meal.
The price point in this category tends to be a bit higher than some of the others we talked about, but it can depend on the type of fish, as well as the way it’s preserved or sold. For instance, you can usually buy frozen fish for a cheaper option and save fresh fish for special occasions.
What Are Some Examples of Unhealthy Low-Fat Foods?
Knowing what is considered low fat can be tricky, and labels are sometimes misleading. Products that are labeled as low-fat foods may appear healthy at first but are often loaded with added sugars and unhealthy ingredients.
These foods can include:
- Low-Fat Sweetened Breakfast Cereal – A lot of popular breakfast cereals are considered to be low-fat because they are mostly carbohydrates, which means they are converted into glucose (sugar). Foods with high sugar content can lead to dental cavities, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and beyond. Also, if a breakfast cereal is mostly sugar, it may not keep you full or satisfied.
- Low-Fat Flavored Coffee Drinks – Coffee beverages made with nonfat milk, such as lattes and mocha, can also be high in sugar.10 A particular danger here is that, unlike with those cereals, consuming large amounts of sugar in liquid form doesn’t make you feel full or satisfied, which may lead to overconsumption.
- Low-Fat Flavored Yogurt – “Low fat” in this case tends to mean less than 15 percent of total calories from fat. Low-fat yogurt means they likely removed some of the fat and—if it is flavored—replaced it with sugary flavoring. Many sweetened yogurts contain over 15 grams of extra sugar, and excess sugar is linked with health problems.
- Low-Fat Salad Dressing – Just like low-fat yogurts, less than 15 percent of total calories in these dressings are from fat. However, many are made with alternatives in order to provide flavor. This can come in the form of sugar or other types of carbohydrates and preservatives. It’s important to note that fat is actually helpful in salads to aid in the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients and to help you feel fuller.
- Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter – For peanut butters, “reduced fat” means that they contain 25 percent or less fat compared to their regular counterparts. Again, it’s crucial to keep in mind that everybody needs some good fats in their diet. Many of the benefits of peanut butter actually come from healthy fats—particularly the monounsaturated fatty acids. So you should know that by removing these, you are getting rid of potential health benefits.
It is important to eat low-fat foods, but the key is to eat foods that are naturally low in fat—such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Keep in mind that this is an unprocessed, whole foods approach that will help you achieve maximum health benefits.
Preparing for Trips to the Grocery Store
Healthy eating starts with healthy grocery shopping—however, simply buying these foods alone isn’t going to help you make easy, healthy meals. It is important to plan ahead before heading to the supermarket, so you have a game plan once you get there.
For one thing, consider how much time you will have to prepare your meals, as this will help you decide whether to get ingredients that are frozen, pre-chopped, etc. To save further time, make a meal plan ahead of time each week so you know exactly what you need for each day of the week (and don’t have to make repeat trips to the store).
Another thing to remember is that you should avoid shopping when you’re hungry. Looking around at all the snacks when you’re starving is an almost sure-fire way to be led astray from sticking to any sort of meal plan. You are more likely to grab something less healthy when it’s in front of you and your stomach’s cravings are taking over the rational part of your brain.
Also, be sure to keep your DNA in mind if you have chosen to get nutrition recommendations from a DNA testing company like GenoPalate—again, countless people across the globe are choosing this science-based approach to nutrition for themselves. It is better to trust nutrition recommendations made just for YOU than follow a fad diet someone else is doing. Everyone has a unique genetic makeup, and you need to pay attention to what your body, in particular, wants and needs. What works for friends, family, or coworkers might not be what is best for you.
Ready to Shop for Your Genes?
Once again, selecting naturally low-fat foods and balancing them with other whole foods is the prime route to take in chasing your healthy living endeavors. Avoid reduced or low-fat alternatives that might be cutting the fat but adding extra sugars and unhealthy—and unnatural—alternatives. Fats are not all inherently bad, as we need some fat in our diet to help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, provide energy, support cell growth, and more.
The critical aspect of shopping for low-fat foods is choosing plenty of healthy foods and getting fats from healthy sources—like avocado, nuts, or olive oil—and eating them in moderation. Want to take things a step further so you can reach your healthiest you yet? Download your sample report today. From there, see if you’d like to order your very own DNA test so you can truly shop based on what your genetic makeup tells you about your nutrition.
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4. Smith-Warner SA. Brassica Vegetables and Breast Cancer Risk—Reply. JAMA. 2001;285(23):2975. doi:10.1001/jama.285.23.2975.
5. Li M, Fan Y, Zhang X, Hou W, Tang Z. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ Open. 2014;4(11). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005497.
6. Mcdonough AA, Veiras LC, Guevara CA, Ralph DL. Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K vs. lower dietary Na : evidence from population and mechanistic studies. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2017;312(4). doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00453.2016.
7. Polak R, Phillips EM, Campbell A. Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clinical Diabetes. 2015;33(4):198-205. doi:10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198.
8. Kennedy D. B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients. 2016;8(2):68. doi:10.3390/nu8020068.
9. Dale HF, Madsen L, Lied GA. Fish–derived proteins and their potential to improve human health. Nutrition Reviews. 2019;77(8):572-583. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuz016.
10. Malik VS, Hu FB. Fructose and Cardiometabolic Health. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2015;66(14):1615-1624. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2015.08.025.
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