Read food labels and buy natural foods to keep the calorie and fat content down.
Whether you are trying to lose weight or provide your family with balanced nutrition, foods that are low in fat and calories can provide you with all the energy and nutrients you need each day. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends shopping at a local farmers market for fresh produce, purchasing foods that you already know how to prepare, then gradually adding new things to your diet. Before you go to the store or market, think about the meals you plan to prepare and ways to substitute the ingredients that are high in fat and calories.
Fat and Calories
Wherever there is fat, there will be calories. If you are trying to reduce your calorie consumption, buying low-fat foods will make it easy. Wichita State University points out that 1 gram of fat contains nine calories. Conversely, 1 gram of protein or carbohydrate contains four calories. This means that a food with 20 grams of fat and 20 grams of sugar is much higher in fat calories than sugar calories. At the store, read labels for percentages, rather than for content by weight, to make sure that the calories from fat are below 30 percent of the total calories.
In most supermarkets, the healthiest food is located around the perimeter of the store. As you make your list, imagine yourself walking around these areas, rather than up and down the aisles at the center of the store. Mentally build your meals based on items in these outer sections. Produce, dairy items, meats and freshly made bakery breads are generally lower in fat and calories than their processed counterparts.
If you plan on making spaghetti and meatballs, think about each ingredient you need to buy. Whole-grain pasta and a low-sugar sauce have less fat and fewer calories than white pasta, ground beef and many jarred pasta sauces. Rather than garlic bread, you can make a salad with wheat croutons. Add some chopped zucchini, eggplant or another vegetable to the recipe to incorporate low-calorie nutrition or even replace the meat in it. Nearly any recipe can be altered on the side of healthfulness.
Dairy Products and Meats
Cheese, butter, cream and yogurt can all be high in fat and calories. If you find it difficult to cook without dairy products, you can opt for reduced-fat versions of virtually any product on that shelf. Leaner meats, such as turkey or chicken breast, contain less fat, and ultimately fewer calories than beef or pork, and you can substitute with them in many recipes. According to the United States Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database, a hamburger made with beef contains about 250 calories with 20 grams of fat, while a turkey patty has only 2 grams of fat and about 115 calories. Substitutions like this can make a big difference in the number of fat calories you eat each day.