Dietary fat plays an essential role in vitamin absorption and healthy development, but too much fat in your diet leads to weight gain, as well as other health concerns. To meet your body's need for dietary fat, aim to get 20 to 35 percent of your calories from fat, primarily from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Limit your saturated fat consumption to less than 7 percent of total calories and avoid trans fat altogether to promote heart health.
Determine your daily calorie target. Your ideal fat intake is relative to the number of calories you consume. If you consume 2,000 calories, your minimum daily fat gram goal will be higher than if you consume 1,600 calories, for example.
Multiply your calorie target by 20 percent to calculate the minimum number of calories you should get from dietary fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, you would aim for 400 calories from fat to meet the minimum requirements.
Divide the number of calories you need from fat by 9. Each fat gram contains 9 calories. On a 2,000-calorie diet, you would divide 400 by 9, for a total of 44.4 g fat daily.
Check the nutrition label before you buy. Look at the serving size for your food -- this might differ from the amount of food you actually eat -- and look at the number of fat grams per serving to determine the food's fat content. You can calculate a food's percentage of calories from fat by multiplying the grams of fat by 9, and then multiplying that number by the calories per serving. For example, a food that contains 3 grams of fat and 50 calories per serving gets 27 calories, or 54 percent of its calories, from fat.
Keep a food journal to help your track your fat intake. Write down everything you eat, noting the calorie and fat content. A food diary makes it simpler to identify eating habits that cause you to miss your dietary fat goal, and you can also monitor and revise the overall quality of your diet.
To calculate the maximum number of calories you should get from fat, multiply your calorie goal by 35 percent and divide your answer by 9.
Healthy sources of fat include cold-water fish, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados and oils, such as safflower, corn, soybean, sunflower, canola and olive. These foods contain healthful unsaturated fats -- sometimes labelled as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat -- instead of harmful saturated or trans fats. While they're healthy, unsaturated fats still contain 9 calories per gram.
Too much saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol. Trans fats also negatively impact blood cholesterol, raising bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol levels, and can lead to a higher risk for heart disease.