Fat Free or Low Fat, How Much Does it Matter?

Many plant based diet gurus advocate fat free or low fat diets for health and weight loss

Fat Free
Dr. McDougall – The McDougall Program, Joel Fuhrman M.D. – Eat to Live, Dr. Neil Bernard – 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart, and Robert Pritikin – The Pritikin Principle, Dean Ornish, M.D. – Eat More, Weigh Less are all about high fiber and/or high protein, low fat or fat free, plant based diets.

Added fats are oils expressed from fatty foods, and don’t include the whole foods which are the source of those oils.

Of course that doesn’t mean that you can eat all the olives, nuts and avocados you want either. Phooey.

The Theory Behind Fat Free Diet Plans:

All oils are very high in calories, essentially empty calories with no fiber, and the more oil you consume, the more calories you consume. So they are eliminated in order to keep body weight down, and also for optimal nutrition.

Optimal nutrition without oil? How does that work?

According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D. in his book The End of Diabetes, 62% of the S.A.D. is oil, sweets and refined grains. When those are replaced with nutritious whole foods, primarily vegetables, not only does calorie consumption go way down, but nutrients and fiber go way up, leading to greater satisfaction and less tendency to over eat. Apparently this diet works extremely well for weight loss and controlling diabetes.

I carefully read all the low or no fat high protein recipes in The End of Diabetes, and tested a few of them. They were delicious! I think that’s because they are very well seasoned with things like fresh herbs and lemon juice, and so packed with nutrition that they are amazingly energizing.

Reducing the salt and eliminating the oil allows the natural flavors of the fresh whole foods to come through, and after a while, your taste buds adjust. I know that’s true from my own experience, as I have very little salt and oil in my diet.

But although I’m comfortable with a low fat diet, I rebel against the idea of having NO added oil in my diet. I’m convinced that I need some oil in my diet or I might shrivel up and blow away. Of course, with all the nuts and avocados I eat, there’s no way that could happen!

I’m just whiny, like a child deprived of treats.

I know that veggies taste delicious steamed or water sauteed, with a squeeze of lime juice – but I’m used to eating them stir-fried in a little oil, and then steamed.

I can easily eat my grains and salads with fat free sauces, toasted seeds and fresh herbs and never miss the oil. But I’m convinced that a little oil makes my food more digestible (blame Ayurveda for that one).

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I know I could marinate and bake my tofu without oil, but first of all I don’t want to turn on the oven, and second, I LIKE the taste and texture of foods fried in just a tiny bit of oil.

That’s all I want, just a tiny bit of oil, maybe a teaspoon a day total. That’s 40 calories. What’s so bad about that?

Well, that’s 280 calories a week, and do you realize how much exercise I would need to burn off 280 calories?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to figure it out. I found the answers here – they were talking about donuts, but empty calories are empty calories.

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110 minutes of yoga: That’s another 3 sessions of yoga a week, in addition to what I already do. That would be nice, but I can barely manage what I do now!

One hour of dancing: That would be fun, but I’m so aerobically unfit, I’d probably have a heart attack. Maybe if I danced for 10 minutes a day, 7 days a week, but I think it’s the sustained activity level that gets you hot and sweaty and burns the calories or something.

Laughing real hard at a funny movie: A 90 minute movie will burn 244 calories. But only once in 10 years do I find a movie that funny (I’m sure I still have a sense of humor, but all this talk about no added oil is making me grumpy).

Riding a bike, rollerblading, jumping rope, running 2.3 miles, vacuuming for 75 minutes, horseback riding – as if! Bwa-ha-ha!

Standing while talking on the phone for 2.5 hours is a possibility, but I’d much rather lounge around on my bed while I talk.

Walking the dog – don’t have one, not gonna get one. Does walking the husband count? It might! And I don’t have to wait around while he waters every tree. That’s a big advantage, but neither of us wants to walk when it’s cold out.

Writing e-mails for 2.5 hours – unless you eat donuts while you write. I don’t eat donuts, and I’m sure I spend way more time than that writing emails. I just didn’t realize it burned calories. That’s strong motivation to get caught up on my emails and clear my inbox once a week. The trouble is I just don’t believe it will burn calories!

You see where I’m going with this (I hope).

Obviously that one teaspoon of oil I consume every day is responsible for the little pot belly that I can’t seem to get rid of, and which looks so awful in my cooking videos (I’m sure the camera exaggerates).

If I cared enough, I would definitely give up all added fats, or add another 3 sessions of yoga a week, or go for more brisk walks with or without my husband.

But I guess I don’t care enough. I figure I look O.K. for 66, little pot belly and all, I’m pretty healthy, and fit enough for what I need to do. I’m betting that 1 tsp of oil a day won’t kill me, and if I’m wrong (which I could well be), I’ll get right on it next lifetime!

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8 Responses to “Fat Free or Low Fat, How Much Does it Matter?”

  1. Savvy Veg says:

    Well it is empty calories – but such TASTY empty calories! :-)

  2. Alex says:

    First time visit for me. I enjoyed your quips – I love to keep thing light hearted, so many get too serious about their diet.

    I feel similar that while I hugely admire John McDougall and his work the branding of olive oil etc as empty calories seems a tad extreme.

    So I’ll continue with a sprinkle on my salads and veggies and sautéing mushrooms in butter. I’m losing weight after all!


  3. Savvy Veg says:

    That’s wonderful, Kathy – congratulations!

  4. Kathy says:

    Very interesting. However, in 1998 I started on McDougall’s diet plan and have followed it since then and my cholesteral basically halved itself. I have no desire for added oil, though an occassional avocado makes its way into a dish. We started with the 14-Day Plan and I immediately dropped 15-20 pounds, which stayed off. Soon after starting we got the McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook and have been using it ever since then. There is plenty of variety and flavor!

  5. Savvy Veg says:

    Thank you, Sheryl :-)

  6. Sheryl says:

    I love your honesty, your sense of humor and your humility. You make us all feel like we are a part of your extended family or your dear friends. I do so appreciate all of the information you provide to us on how to live a healthy Vegetarian life, the recipes, the book reviews, your shared opinions…I love it all. It is such a gift. Thank you soooooo much. And I’m 58, my hubby is 61..so we’re right behind you in age…and getting there. Sheryl

  7. Savvy Veg says:

    Thank you, Nancy! You can’t get too serious about it all, right? That would be so dull. My husband would probably water trees, but we walk in town, and he doesn’t want to get arrested.

  8. Nancy Cooper says:

    Ms. Savvy Veg,
    I totally enjoyed this article. Smiled a lot and laughed out loud twice. Very fun!
    And sometimes when I walk the husband out in the woods, I do have to stop and wait for him to water a tree!
    Thank you for all your plant based study and for your sense of humor,

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