Back to Basics Baby Step Monday Mission no. 3: Try a New Healthy Fat

This post may contain affiliate links, including Your price won't change but it enables free content & supports our family business.

This is a {guest post} series from Tiffany of Don’t Waste the Crumbs. Catch all the previous baby steps HERE.

Butter & Eggs - Fats we all think of, but there are more options!

Prior to June 2012, my family consumed an average of one pound of butter per week. We had never heard of coconut oil or tallow, and I wouldn’t have touched lard with a ten-foot pole. All in all, butter was our only source of saturated fat.

Compare the one pound per week statistic to the last four months of 2012 where our consumption of saturated fat doubled.

Sounds normal? Sure it does, to you real food foodies. Compared to the average American family’s intake of only 1/3 of a pound of butter per week, we sound gluttonous!

Could it be a correlation with our love for freshly baked bread (which we all know MUST have butter)? Or the realization that saturated fat, like butter, is actually good for us?

Honestly, it was a little bit of both. Knowing that butter is a good fat made me want bread (with butter). Eating a thick slick of freshly baked bread with a thick layer of butter made me want another piece (with more butter). It was a viciously delicious cycle. 😉

Your Monday Mission – should you choose to accept – is to try a new healthy fat.

Say what?! Doesn’t fat make you fat?

As is customary with our missions, let’s round up the research (for those who need the background).

Instead of offering all the details of this FANTASTIC information that Katie put so much time and effort into, I’m going to do the opposite. I’m giving you the “for dummies” version.

Information is our weapon if we are going to fight the good food fight, but from the beginner’s point of view, it can be overwhelming. This series is all about the baby steps, so let’s talk fat in baby terms.

Fat is Healthy?

Yes and no. There are three main types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. All pure, unaltered saturated fats are good. Most monounsaturated fats are good. Nearly all polyunsaturated fats are bad. Here are some examples to illustrate:

Saturated Fats

tallow (beef fat)
coconut oil
palm kernel oil

Monounsaturated Fats

olive oil
peanut butter
sesame oil

Polyunsaturated Fats

soybean oil
corn oil
safflower oil
sunflower oil
most “yellow” cooking oils

Note: I know that omega-3’s and omega-6’s are good for our body and that technically, they’re polyunsaturated oils. We could also get into expeller-expressed and unrefined oils. But those topics are not basic and quite frankly, they can be confusing for non-beginners. So we’ll save those for another discussion.

In Summary: If all pure, unchanged saturated fats are good, we should use these fats the most. If most monounsaturated fats are good as well, we should be comfortable with consuming them regularly. If nearly all polyunsaturated fats are bad, we should use these the least (if at all).

What does this look like in the kitchen?

If we’ve ditched all the trans fat from our first Monday mission, then some of us are left wondering how to make cookies without shortening. How do we fry chicken without oil? Is tossing out trans fat a contradiction to eating peanut butter?

For every trans-fat filled item in our kitchen, there is an applicable and more than sufficient substitute. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that in most cases, the substitute is better than the original!

Real Fats for Baking

Coconut Oil is a healthy fat that is SO good for the body; inside & out!

With margarine and shortening gone, now’s the perfect opportunity to try butter or coconut oil. (Already use butter? Make sure your butter is better.)

We’ve all heard of butter right? Just in case you’ve been sheltered by an umbrella made of margarine, it’s the fat from the cream of milk.

Heard of coconut oil? It’s the edible oil extracted from the meat of coconuts. So it’s kinda like eating fruit, right? 😉

Cooking at High Temperatures

Yellow “vegetable” oils should officially be considered off limits. Instead use tallow, lard, ghee or palm kernel oil. These were all new to me, so here’s the easy answer to “what in the world is that?!”

  • Tallow is made by rendering raw fat (also known as suet) from beef or sheep. It’s solid at room temperature and can be stored in an airtight container without refrigeration.
  • Lard is made by rendering raw pig fat. Again solid at room temperature, but it should be stored either in the fridge or through the canning process.
  • Ghee is clarified butter, made by cooking butter. It too is solid at room temperature (noticing a trend here?) and is safe to store (covered) for about one year.
  • Palm kernel oil comes from the edible seed of the oil palm tree and is also (you guessed it!) solid at room temperature.

Direct Consumption

sour cream

We’ve been brainwashed to think that low-fat or fat-free foods are better for us than the full-fat versions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ponder this questions: if the fat (which is found naturally in most of these foods) is removed, what is added?

Additives, preservatives, sugar, unnecessary chemicals, toxins in some cases. It’s time to ditch the low-fat and fat-free foods that are lingering in our kitchens. Opt for the full-fat versions instead.

Here’s a list of items of common items that are often found in low-fat or fat-free varieties:

  • milk
  • evaporated milk
  • sweetened condensed milk
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • butter (the spray stuff or even powdered butter flavorings)
  • eggs (think egg substitutes)
  • nut butters (seek out natural or organic varieties to avoid trans fat)
  • sour cream
  • cottage cheese
  • mayonnaise
  • soups/stocks
  • salad dressings

Many of these things can be made from scratch, but if you do buy any of them, take a baby step by choosing the full-fat version. Be sure to read all labels though just in case the manufacturer starts sneaking in weird stuff.

What about foods that are naturally high in fat – do we or do we not eat them?

You eat them. And enjoy them. Thoroughly. Smile

Ask yourself this – does this food look different on my table than it does in nature (minus some butchering or cleaning)? If the answer is no, then eat up!

  • avocado
  • nuts
  • fish
  • olives
  • coconut
  • bacon
  • cream
  • beef

And how about fermented cod liver oil? Heh, heh, heh…yep, this is Katie inserting her loud mouth with a maybe-not-so-baby-step. I just wanted to share, because it cracks me up, that when the two big kids in our family take their Green Pasture FCLO, my toddler BEGS for it like it’s candy! And you know what? He likes it. He asks for more once he has a taste. Can you believe it? FCLO is a healthy fat, too, with lots of omega 3s and Vitamins A & D, immune boosters for this dark, snowy, cold time of year! (It’s 12 degrees and blustery at my house today.)

What does this look like in MY kitchen?

Embracing saturated fat is not difficult. Erasing the “fat is bad for you” mind-set is.

While it has gotten easier over time, I often find myself unable to choose full-fat versions of some items because low-fat or fat-free is the only choice available.

For example, just last week I went to the grocery store to buy milk and a single serve container of yogurt as a starter to make homemade yogurt (we ate it all without saving some for the next batch – oops!).

Usually I use Greek yogurt as a starter because it’s thicker, and it yields a thicker homemade version too. However, I scoured the Greek yogurt section and could only find fat-free varieties. There was not a single full-fat Greek yogurt on the shelf.

I conceded and scooted over to the regular yogurt section to find the next best option – a plain, nothing fancy, regular full-fat yogurt. Lo and behold, there were none!

It wasn’t until I began to leave the dairy section altogether that I saw a separate mini-refrigerated end-cap (near the diapers and travel-sized items no less) with half of one shelf dedicated to yogurt. I grabbed one cup of the only yogurt that had fat. I can’t even be sure it was full-fat though because there was none other to compare to!

The bright side though is that there are some simple steps that we’ve taken to embrace healthy fat. These steps are easy for any beginner to incorporate too.

  • Switch from skim to whole milk
  • No longer purchase butter spreads, instead use regular butter
  • Use coconut oil and butter in baked goods
  • Add coconut oil to meals
  • Buy only natural or organic peanut butter
  • Buy full-fat sour cream
  • Make our own salad dressings (with full-fat olive oil)
  • Buy full-fat cheese

Again, none of these changes were difficult. But there is a conscious effort to seek out the full-fat versions, especially with the prevalence of the “less fat” options everywhere we turn.

There’s much room for improvement too. We don’t deep fry often, but we sauté regularly with olive oil and that’s a big no-no since olive oil has a low smoke point (essentially turning the good parts of olive oil bad). Using butter and bacon grease (YUM!) is the immediate solution and adding palm kernel oil to the kitchen will happen in the next couple months. Locating a good source for local grass-fed beef so that I can acquire the suet (at a reasonable cost) is something I’d like to accomplish in the next six months or year.

How do you plan to incorporate healthy fat into your kitchen? Which new-to-you healthy fat are you trying next?

Check this out: Follow the Baby Steps board on Pinterest by clicking HERE.

Meet TiffanyTiffany is a newbie real food eater who is trying to master and incorporate nourishing foods into her kitchen without breaking the bank. She documents her baby-sized strides at DontWastetheCrumbs.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Perfect Supplements.

Click here for my disclaimer and advertising disclosure - affiliate links in this post will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price.

35 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Heather says

    Thank you for all of this great info! I am just starting out on my real food journey and the babysteps are so helpful. I have one question. What about grapeseed oil? Is that just as bad as other vegetable oils too? That is what I have been using for most of my cooking.

    • says

      I’m glad you’re finding the series helpful Heather! Grapeseed oil… honestly, the research is inconclusive. The pro is a high-smoke point, so less damage to the oil (and thus our bodies) during cooking. Another pro is that it offers omega-6, but most of us don’t need MORE than what we take in on average… so taking in more omega-6 can throw off the 3/6 balance and in turn become a con.

      My personal opinion – if you use it for daily cooking, I’d switch it up with other healthy oils too. If it’s every so often, I’d just continue to use it. If you use it in non-cooked foods (dressings, mayo, etc.) I’d switch to olive oil.

  2. Emily via Facebook says

    hmmm….I’ve already tried every fat on that list except avocado oil! And I use all of them regularly except lard, tallow, and avocado oil (don’t have a source for clean lard or tallow).

  3. says

    I have so much to learn, and there is so much conflicting information around the web that my head spins. I’m thankful for your Baby Step series, but my family just isn’t into this–my husband has no desire to eat healthy, and my daughter is a very picky eater. Baby steps are the way to go for me. I’ve already snuck in whole grain pasta without them realizing it.

    • says

      It’s so much easier to continue in one direction than change. Baby steps make it easier without everything getting thrown off balance at the same time. Even small steps in the right direction are progress. :) Keep up the hard work!

  4. says

    Real lard is *not* solid at room temperature. It is an opaque liquid. It is a very soft solid when refrigerated, easily scoopable. If it is solid at room temperature, it very likely contains partially hydrogenated lard! The grocery store lard contains lard, partially hydrogenated lard, and BHT (toxic preservative). Make sure if you buy lard it is from a farm! I love it, but it is very hard to find *good* lard.

  5. Sandy. says

    I’ve begun using rendered chicken fat for cooking meat (we eat a lot more chicken than beef).
    I use grapeseed oil for sauteing, and in salad dressing – my husband likes the flavor.
    Coconut and palm oil, however, will never come into my kitchen. Far too much production of them is extremely destructive to rainforests, commercialization of production is harmful to the small subsistence-farmers who used to grow it for local consumption, and palm- and coconut-oil derivatives are an increasingly-serious allergen problem, partly thanks to their utter ubiquity, for many years, in practically every “personal care” product on the market:
    I will continue to use applesauce in cookies. There is a HUGE difference between oatmeal cookies made with applesauce subbed for part of the butter because that way they don’t dry out as fast (and that apple flavor enhances the oatmeal), and cookies made with some artificial butter substitute.

  6. shauna says

    i thought that butter had a lower smoke point than olive oil – some recipes say to saute in olive oil mixed with butter for this reason – to get the flavor of butter but the oil makes it not smoke so fast.
    Though now after reading this I won’t be frying in olive oil anymore! Will switch to coconut oil (right?) or bacon grease!

    • says

      I’ve heard this same advice before, and if true, it would help for really good quality oil. However, much of the olive oil sold on store shelves is not good quality, and thus will break down even easier than anticipated. At which point adding butter won’t help at all. I think it’s better to switch to coconut oil (yes) or bacon grease. Besides, bacon-flavored anything is just delicious!!

    • says

      You are correct LouAnn – coconut can be used for higher temp cooking. I originally had that included, but noticed that some who used this method didn’t like the taste of coconut in their final dish. Then it lead me to refined coconut oil and another big paragraph talking about that. By the time I was done, it was beyond a baby step, so I excluded it. :) But you are correct!

  7. Lindsey says

    Hi Katie,
    I just read your better butter post and then the one about good cheese and it got me wondering about Tilamook, which is what I usually buy. You said that no hormones is the most important factor in cheese. Tilamook says they don’t us RBST, but are there other hormones commonly given to cows that I need to look out for?

  8. Michelle says

    I need to lose a lot of weight. Have put on way too much due to stress eating in the last several months. How can I eat real food and still lose weight? I’m trying to avoid processed foods and sugar, although I will use honey and a little maple syrups to sweeten things like tea, yogurt, etc. We try to mostly eat organic and whole foods, not out of a box. Not sure what else to do. Help!

    • Amy D. says

      Hi, Michelle! First of all, let me apologize about my wall of text! (^_~) A lot of what you are doing already should be helping you get the weight off, but if it is not, then it sounds like you may have hit a plateau. I have hit a few plateaus in my lose-weight-gain-muscle journey as well. The first thing you need to consider is portion control – sometimes it may not be what you are eating, but how much of it you are eating. Kitchen scales are wonderful and I recommend getting one if you are serious about portion control (you will really be surprised at how big a 4oz portion of meat really is!), though if one is out of your budget range, there are few things you can do to approximate: a 3 to 6oz serving of protein (depending on the type of protein) is about the size of the palm of your hand and about 1/2 to 1 inch thick (also depending on protein source); a serving of vegetables is two hands cupped together; a serving of fruit is about the size of closed fist (be careful of the fruits used, though – some have higher sugar contents and therefore have smaller portion sizes); an ounce of cheese is about the size of your thumb (the whole thumb). If you have your portion sizes down and still aren’t losing weight, then consider an SOS plan (to be done for NO MORE than 4 weeks at a time and NO MORE than twice a year) – for 4 weeks, cut out ALL grains and legumes and only have 1 portion of dairy (a half cup of yogurt or one cup – as in 8oz and not one big glass (^_~) – of milk) in the morning. It’s ok to have “cheat” day once per week where you eat whatever you want (don’t gorge, though). These should push you past your plateau. Once past, stick to smaller meals (three meals and two snacks) during the day and ALWAYS pair a protein with a complex carb and vice-versa (this will help you feel more full) and to eat any carbs that come from grains and potatoes early in the day (my trainer/nutritionalist says no heavy carbs, including fruit, after 3…I don’t always stick to that, but I do keep dinner to just meats and veggies most of the time). Also, as much as many people don’t want to believe it, exercise DOES help. Try to go for a 30 min brisk walk every day (get your family members to go with you, too!) to start with. Remember – losing weight is a SLOW and often HARD process but it is SOOO worth it at the end.

      A couple of side notes –
      1. Losing weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise
      2. I actually cringe at the term “weight loss” now. I know that it’s hard to get past the number on the scale, but it really is more important that your body shape is changing rather than your weight. I have a friend who is a body builder – during competition time you can SEE the extra fat that he stored up in the off season come off, but his weight does not change AT ALL the whole time.
      3. Consider getting a subscription to Clean Eating Magazine. Their definition of “clean” does still include low fat dairy and some less-processed-but-more-processed-than-I-like sweeteners and other substitutions, but their recipes are real food and usually very tasty and easy.

  9. Janet says

    I grew up eating everything low-fat so the switch to butter and full fat dairy has been a slow process. I just bought my first full fat mayonnaise the other day. :) I have not made the switch to whole milk yet, I still drink skim with dinner. That is a hard switch for me. I like the skim milk.
    Thank you for this series.

    • says

      The milk switch was hardest for me too. I use it mainly for kefir, which goes into a smoothie, so the change in thickness wasn’t noticeable for me. However, if I still drank it straight like I used it, there would be some problems, lol.

      What about going from skim to 1%? Then 1% to 2%? Maybe change every month or two?

      • Janet says

        Thanks for the tip. :) Maybe that is doable. I do not know if it is the thickness that bothers me though. I think it is more of a mind thing. It is a lot easier to switch to full fat with something you do not eat/drink a lot.

      • Sarah D says

        We switched our milk little by little like this and it helped us in the transition. It really helped, I thought. We now drink whole milk and I’ve found I can use it in my coffee and I no longer need sweetener since it has such nice flavor.

        We are moving from a place where raw milk is illegal to sell to a place where it is prevalent. I would love to switch us to raw whole milk, but we had to move to whole store bought milk first or the jump would be too great.

  10. kaylee says

    I love eating whole foods, but I’m always confused when people say “Eat butter and drink whole milk, the fat is good for you!” If I had my own milk cow, I’d make butter and drink skim milk. The fat content of other dairy products would depend on whether we use the butter or milk faster…

    • says

      The debate over animal fat is very confusing. To sum it up (and hopefully clarify) is animal fat (including butter and milk) is mostly saturated fat. While many health organizations say saturated fat is bad, there is no legit research stating so. If they claim so, it’s usually finagling numbers to work in their favor. In reality, saturated fat is good for your body in how your body uses and process it. Your body literally takes what it needs (there are FANTASTIC enzymes and nutrients in these fats) and passes the rest through. With the other types of fat, the food has been modified in some way and our body can’t use it and move it as efficiently. The other “stuff” included are the things that are bad for us.
      I hope that helps!! ~Tiffany

      • Sandy. says

        SOME saturated fat is good for you. So is a little unsaturated fat. Too much fat is still too much fat. Take in more calories than you use, and they will still be stored somewhere!
        I wonder if part of what Kaylee was saying, is, there’s only so much fat available per cow-output. If you drink whole milk AND eat butter, you might be doing 2 things you didn’t intend to do: taking in more fat, altogether, than you need, and taking more than your fair share, because that skim milk will be left for someone else to drink, unless the dairyman also keeps hogs and feeds the skim to the pigs?

        • Casey says

          There is actually a growing number of people who subsist off of 50% of fat by calories (some even more!) with no ill effect. The eskimos have been doing it for generations! Each body is going to act a little differently, but God created our bodies in such a way that we can adapt to any *nutritious* diet, be it high fat or moderate fat. Different strokes for different folks, but most people would have a hard time actually eating *to much* pure saturated fat. But I do agree that if you are eating to many calories, regardless of where they are coming from, then you might have a problem on your hands.

  11. Deirdre says

    Regarding full fat -I’ve recently discovered the joy and taste of unhomogenized milk from Whole Foods. It says it’s 1% but it tastes alot richer. Is the calorie count true–ie100 calories. If I go full fat do I need to cut back my dairy quantity to watch howany calories I consume. I have had several health practioners recommend no or little dairy. What are your thoughts on this?

    • says

      Hi Deirdre,

      I believe one cup of skim is 90 calories and one cup of whole is 180 – so roughly 100 calories sounds accurate.

      When it comes to weight, it’s not all about calories. What you spend your calories on is more important. If you ate butter, drank whole milk, ate fresh fruits & veggies & high quality meat, you’d feel better and probably lose more weight than eating highly-processed, low-fat, low-cal “diet” foods.

      Remember that “diet” foods have ickies added to counteract the lack of calories. Would you rather consume ickies or real food? 😉

  12. says

    Is peanut oil a “bad” yellow oil? I saw you included peanut butter on your “ok” oils list… this is the one that’s always stumped me. Sometimes it’s really handy to have a liquid (at room temp) oil to cook or bake with. If I shouldn’t be using peanut oil, is there a good substitute?

    • says


      The short answer is no, peanut oil is not considered to be a bad yellow oil. However, its level of saturated fat is not as high as other options – Lard is at 39g, Suet 52g, Butter 51g and Peanut Oil comes in at 17g. So if you had the choice between these, choose the one with the most saturated fat. Also, peanut oil has nearly the same amount of polyunsaturated fat (the really bad kind) as hydrogenated vegetable shortening… :(

      The flip side though is that peanut oil has a higher smoke point than any other of the fats originally listed, making it nearly ideal for frying.

      My (newbie) recommendation? You’re fine using peanut oil now and then, especially for frying, but do try other options if you’re able to. The health properties in saturated fat are truly amazing and you’ll avoid those polyunsat fats.

Take a Bite (of conversation)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *