Calorie Deficit: Does it Matter How Much Fat You Eat?

Does it matter how much fat you eat in a calorie deficit?

There is a negative connotation surrounding dietary fat. Now that you are trying to lose weight in a calorie deficit, you may be wondering if it actually matters how much fat you eat.

Let’s explore some facts around fat and see if it is really as bad as most say it is.

Does it matter how much fat you eat in a calorie deficit?

The quick answer is no. You can lose weight eating as little or as much fat content as you want to be honest, as long as you create a calorie deficit.

As I discuss quite frequently, a calorie deficit is when you consume fewer calories than your body needs for energy. This forces your body to use stored energy, aka fat stores, for fuel.

You can create a calorie deficit by eating less, exercising more, or a combination of both.

You can read more about how to achieve a calorie deficit by reading my article here.

If you are in a calorie deficit and not losing weight, it is not because of the amount of fat you are consuming, it is because you are likely NOT in a calorie deficit.

You will need to adjust your deficit until you start seeing results. Sometimes this is a trial and error process.

You could try increasing your daily calorie deficit amount by 100 calories and trying this for a week to see your results.

You could also try taking a brisk walk in the evening every day to increase your energy expenditure for the day to see if this helps.

Now that we have established that, let’s look at the different types of fat and analyze their differences and what the best options are.

Is fat bad for a calorie deficit?

calorie deficit and fat for brain function

No. fat is not bad. This is a common misconception that has been ingrained into our being.

The truth is that while there are some fats that can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system in excessive amounts, there are fats that actually are wonderful for our bodies and maintaining health.

Dietary fats are absolutely essential to give the body the energy it needs and to support cell function.

They also help protect your vital organs and help keep your body warm.

Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones as well.

Types of fat and their differences

Saturated fat

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like meat and dairy. They’re also found in coconut and palm oils.

Too much saturated fat can increase your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and put you at greater risk for heart disease.

Heart disease can lead to many things, such as having a heart attack or a stroke in the future, so of course you want to avoid this happening to you right?

You should limit your intake of saturated fats to no more than 10% of your total daily calories if you can.

Unsaturated fat

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and come mostly from plants. There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

These fats can help improve your “good” HDL cholesterol levels and lower your risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends you consume more polyunsaturated fats than saturated fats.

healthy fats in a calorie deficit

Trans fat

Trans fat is the worst type of dietary fat because it increases your LDL cholesterol levels while simultaneously lowering your HDL cholesterol levels.

Trans fat is created when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats by adding hydrogen. This process is called “hydrogenation.”

Anything you would think of as your typical “processed junk food” likely contains high amounts of trans fats.

You should try to consume as little trans fat as possible to preserve heart health.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat and are mainly found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies.

You can also find omega-3s in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for heart health because they help lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure while also helping to prevent abnormal heart rhythms.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming two servings of fish per week to get your omega-3s.

Omega-6 fatty acids 

Omega-6 fatty acids are also a type of polyunsaturated fat. Unlike omega-3s, however, they are not as beneficial for heart health.

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in corn oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil. They’re also in processed foods like crackers, cookies, and chips.

While you don’t need to avoid omega-6 fatty acids altogether, you should limit your intake because too much can actually increase your risk for heart disease.

What foods containing fat should I include in my calorie deficit?

If you want to consume fat in your calorie deficit, it is best to stick with good sources so that you can preserve your body’s overall health for the long term.

Now, let’s explore these options a bit further.

Good sources of healthy fats for your calorie deficit

olive oil healthy fat in a calorie deficit

Olive oil

Olive oil is a great option because it is packed with flavor and can be used in many different ways in cooking, such as sautéing, stir-frying, and even as a dressing.


Avocados are also another great option as they have a healthy amount of monounsaturated fat.

They are versatile and can be used in many dishes, such as guacamole, sandwiches, salads, and even smoothies.


Nuts are another great idea because they contain both protein and fat.

They make a great snack on their own or can be added to other dishes for extra flavor and crunch.

Some of the best options include almonds, walnuts, and cashews.


Seeds are another excellent source of healthy fats.

They are often used as toppings or added to other dishes for an extra boost of nutrients.

Some of the best seeds to consume for their fat content include chia seeds, flaxseeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Nut butters

Nut butters are a good option because they are a concentrated source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

They can be used as a spread on toast or added to other dishes for extra flavor.

Some of the best options include almond butter, cashew butter, and peanut butter.

As you likely know, many nut butters such as peanut butter are very high in calorie content per 1 tablespoon, so if you want to save on calories you should definitely use sparingly.

Foods containing fat to avoid in your calorie deficit:

Processed meats

You want to void processed meats if you can because they are high in saturated fat and sodium.

Processed meats include items such as bacon, ham, sausage, and hot dogs.

I am not one to ever avoid bacon, ham, sausage, or hot dogs, and I will eat them in very moderate amounts, because I enjoy eating them.

It is okay to have these foods in moderation. Just don’t include processed meats in your selection in excessive amounts.

Fried foods

Fried foods are also high in saturated fat and should be eaten in moderation as well..

This includes items such as French fries, chicken fingers, and mozzarella sticks.

While fried foods taste wonderful and are hard to avoid, it is important to be mindful of the fat content to make sure we are keeping those arteries clean.

Certain desserts

Desserts are often high in sugar and unhealthy fats.

When you do decide to indulge, make sure to do so in moderation.

Some of the high fat offenders include cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

There are healthier dessert options out there that contain lower amounts of fat and are made to be healthier. You may feel like you are not even missing out on anything and are satisfying that sweet tooth.

I have a very bad sweet tooth, so I try to cut down on my dessert intake, but I never cut them out completely. Once you cut back on how many dessert type foods you consume, you will find that your cravings for them will decrease over time.

Fatty cuts of meat

Fatty cuts of meat are also high in saturated fat. These consist of cuts of meat such as ribeye, t-bone, and porterhouse steak.

fatty foods in a calorie deficit

I am not saying to avoid these cuts of meat altogether. I am a big fan of steak, but I try to consume leaner cuts of meat more often to keep my fat intake lower.

You can still enjoy these fatty cuts of meat, but moderation is key. It is a good idea to try to explore some leaner cuts of meat, such as boneless chicken and many types of fish.

Whole milk

Whole milk is also high in saturated fat. I recommend avoiding whole milk if you want to save on calories and opt for skim or 1%. Almond milk is also an amazing option!

I know that some people say that whole milk is better for you because it contains more vitamins and minerals, but I believe that you can get these same nutrients from other sources that are lower in fat.


Butter is another food item that is high in saturated fat and calories. I recommend avoiding butter or using it sparingly. Just 1 tablespoon of unsalted or salted butter contains about 100 calories.

Think about how much butter the average person uses, I am willing to bet it is a lot more than 1 tablespoon.

There are some healthier alternatives to butter that you can use such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil, but only if you choose.

Cream cheese

Cream cheese is also high in saturated fat and calories. A lot of people enjoy using cream cheese as a spread on bagels or toast.

I love cream cheese, but I try to use it sparingly because of its high fat content.

There are some lighter options available such as Neufchâtel cheese, which has about half the amount of fat as regular cream cheese.

Caloric content of fat

Fat contains about 9 calories per gram, so it is the most calorie dense group versus proteins and carbohydrates.

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid all fats, but rather be mindful of the amount you consume in a day if you are trying to lose weight.

Calories from fat can add up and sneak up on you very quickly.

Be mindful when tracking your calories in your calorie deficit

When tracking your calories to maintain your calorie deficit, you do need to realize that foods high in fat content will have more calories.

Yes, you can eat them, you just need to track them, and realize that these calories will add up.

These calories can actually add up quite quickly if you are consuming foods that are high in fat content, and before you know it, you will blow through your whole daily allotment you have set for yourself if you are not careful.

For example, if you have a salad with just lettuce and chicken with some onions, cherry tomatoes and olives, that is not going to be as calorie dense as a salad with lettuce, chicken, bacon, cheese, and blue cheese dressing.

The latter salad would be an example of a high fat meal, which would contain far more calories.

Another example is if you are tracking your calories and eating healthy during the day, but then you have 2 slices of cake for dessert.

These 2 slices of cake could have upwards of 1200 calories or more.

This is over half of your daily calorie intake if you are trying to consume 2,000 calories a day.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy high fat meals, but you need to be smart regarding the calorie content of these foods and make sure that it fits into your daily calorie goals.


In conclusion, Does it matter how much fat you eat in a calorie deficit?

No, as long as you create a calorie deficit, you will lose weight no matter how much fat you consume. It all comes down to the fact of: calories in vs. calories out.

However, there are different types of fat and some are healthier than others and are better for your body’s overall health. This is just an important aspect to keep in mind.

As long as you track your calories correctly, you will still lose weight in a calorie deficit when eating fat.