Reducing Fat in Your Diet and Cooking Without Oil

By Jane Birch

Reducing Fat in Your Diet

Whole plants naturally contain the macro and micro-nutrients we need in the right balance, so (unless you have a specific health condition that warrants it) there is no need to micromanage your diet. Focus on the big picture: eating a diet of whole (unprocessed) plant (not animal) foods. This diet is naturally very low in fat.

Because the American diet is so high in fat (average 35%), it may take some time for your taste buds to adjust to a naturally low-fat diet, but it will happen! It happens quickly from some people, but it may take up to about 90 days for others. The key is to totally eliminate high-fat foods from your diet so that your body and brain learn to adjust. It can help if you tell yourself: this is just for 90 days (rather than THIS IS FOREVER). I think it is easier to go cold turkey, but some people may prefer a slower, step-by-step approach.

Because this way of thinking is so foreign from our current food culture, the following suggestions for reducing fat may be useful, but remember: it is the big picture that matters.

1. Learn to identify high fat foods.

  • All animal foods: meat, dairy, and eggs. These are naturally very high in fat, unless the fat has been taken out (in which case they are unhealthy for other reasons).
  • All vegetable oils, including coconut oil. This goes without saying: these are all 100% fat. Even cooking spray labeled as “zero calories and fat-free” is 100% fat! (The FDA allows companies to round down to zero.)
  • Most processed foods. Check the labels, and read the ingredients. Calculate the percent of calories that are coming from fat. If 20% or more of calories come from fat, consider this a “high-fat food.” It is not uncommon for 50-70% of the calories to come from fat! (But note that most processed food, even if the fat has been removed, is not healthy.)
  • High fat plant foods. These include raw nuts and seeds (75–92% fat); avocados (88% fat); coconut (92% fat); and olives (98% fat).
  • Soybeans are relatively high fat (40%) and so are traditional soy foods (tofu, soy milk, tempeh, miso, edamame, etc.). Nontraditional soy products and “fake foods” made from soy (soy burgers, soy turkey, etc.) are usually VERY high in fat. (Because they are made from soy isolates, which are not healthy, even if they are low-fat they should be avoided.

2. Eliminate animal foods, oils, and high-fat processed foods.

You won’t cook with foods that are not in your house. And if they are gone, it will motivate you to learn how to do without them.

3. Limit high fat plant foods.

If you are addicted to any of the high-fat plant foods, eliminate them (at least until you have this addiction totally under control). These foods are not an essential part of a whole food, plant-based diet, but if you choose to use them, plan to keep consumption to no more than about one ounce a day. Stick with traditional soy foods in moderation and avoid the fake soy products altogether.

4. Learn to cook without oil.

See the suggestions below for Cooking Without Oil

5. Learn to read food labels.

When purchasing foods in a box or package, make sure no more than 20% of the calories are from fat (no more than 2.5 grams of fat per 100 calories).

Also read the ingredients. Avoid all saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, and tropical oils, including lard, butter, coconut, cocoa butter, palm oils, shortening, or margarine.

6. At restaurants, ask that your food be prepared without oil.

It can be hard to get healthy food at some restaurants, and it often takes some courage. Be brave! This is your health!!

You can ask the waiter to ask the chef which vegan dishes are prepared without any added oils or can easily be made without added oils. Steamed veggies are perfect, or you can ask, “Could you use water or vegetable broth instead of oil when cooking the vegetables?” Restaurants want to please customers, and most places will try their best to accommodate you!

Sometimes there are no oil-free salad dressings at the restaurant. In this case, try using balsamic vinegar, salsa, lemon juice, or even some added fruit. You might also want to just bring your own salad dressing in a small container.

Cooking Without Oil

1. Use any of the thousands of oil-free whole food, plant-based recipes, and you won’t have to come up with any substitutes.

2. Steam your vegetables. This makes it easy!

3. When sautéing vegetables, use water, vegetable broth or vinegar instead of oils.

4. Learn how to brown your vegetables for flavor. Watch Chef Del Sroufe demonstrate.

Advice from Mary McDougall: “Browned onions have an excellent flavor and can be used alone or mixed with other vegetables to make a dish with a delicious taste. To achieve the brown color, as well as to flavor your foods, place 1 1/2 cups of chopped onions in a large nonstick frying pan with 1 cup of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and the onions begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. Continue to stir for a minute, then add another 1/2 cup of water, loosening the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid evaporates again. Repeat this procedure 1 or 2 more times, until the onions (or mixed vegetables) are as browned as you like. You can also use this technique to brown carrots, green peppers, garlic, potatoes, shallots, zucchini, and many other vegetables, alone or mixed in a variety of combinations.”

5. When baking, use substitutes for oil. Replace the oil with half the amount of another moist food, such as applesauce, mashed bananas, mashed potatoes, mashed pumpkin, pureed plums, or tomato sauce. Other substitutes that are useful but contain higher levels of fat include: pureed tofu, soft silken tofu, soy yogurt and ground flaxseeds.

Prune Puree Method 1: Put a 12-ounce package of pitted prunes a food processor with about ¼ cup of water. Process and slowly add more water while processing to reach the desired consistency (similar to applesauce). This can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Prune Puree Method 2: Fill a blender with water up to the 3-cup mark. Add the prunes until water reaches the 4-cup mark. Blend until completely smooth

6. Replace oil in dressings and sauces with silken tofu, mashed avocado, or beans. Un-drained white beans can be pureed and substituted 1:1 for oil in any dressing recipe. Garbanzo bean juice also works. Here are some no oil WFPB Salad Dressings and WFPB Sauces.

7. Below is advice on cooking cakes and muffins from Mary McDougall.

“Cakes and muffins made without oil usually come out a little heavier. For a lighter texture use carbonated water instead of tap water in baking recipes. Be sure to test cakes and muffins at the end of the baking time by inserting a toothpick or cake tester in the center to see if it comes out clean. Sometimes oil-less cakes and muffins may need to be baked longer than the directions advise, depending on the weather or the altitude at which you live.”

8. When roasting vegetables in the oven, use a good balsamic vinegar in place of the oil.

9.  Use non-stick cookware, parchment paper and silicone mats and dishes.

10. Here are more guides to oil-free cooking:


Last updated: August 13, 2016


  1. I am SO confused. I read that avocado is not good but then I read in Cooking Without Oil to replace oil with mashed avocado – Really?
    And then I read advice on cooking cakes and muffins … Cakes and muffins? Don’t these foods have sugar in them? Why is anyone eating cakes and muffins?

    I would really like to try eating whole foods, less fats, more veggies (I love almost all veggies) no sugar, etc. But I find the rules very difficult to follow. I’ve been reading the horror stories about meats and I would love to give them up. We currently only eat chicken and fish. But neither my husband or I know how to use spices (we eat very little salt). We do use olive oil, but I am guessing that we shouldn’t use that either.

    It seems that this way of eating takes a long time to shop and replace how to cook. I’m not sure I could really get this right even though I am sincere in wanting to try.

    • You ask some GREAT question, Beatrice! I promise you that this is not confusing once you’ve had some time to study it and live it. Don’t feel you have to understand everything all at once.

      Some things are healthy, some are not healthy, but there are some that are a mixture, so if you eat them, you might consider eating them more sparingly.

      You can safely eliminate all avocados, oils, and sweeteners from your diet and suffer no ill consequences. On the other hand, you could also use one or more of these sparingly and still have good health. Some people find it impossible to use them sparingly, and for these people, total abstinence may be the best course.

      Avocados are whole foods, with lots of nutrition…and LOTS of fat. Unless you need extra calories, it is probably wise to not consume them more than sparingly. You can get all the same nutrition, with much less fat, by consuming low fat plant foods.

      Olive oil, on the other hand, is 100% fat with next to zero nutrients. There are no health benefits to consuming olive oil (unless you are using them in place of fats that are even worse for you). But yes you could use oil very sparingly and still enjoy good health if the rest of your diet is excellent. This is something I personally prefer to just do without.

      Yes, most desserts use some sweeteners. If they are made from whole foods, they contain some nutrients, but the health benefits of the nutrients can be outweighed by the negative impact of too much sweetener. It depends on the recipe. My philosophy is that an occasional WFPB treat is fine…sparingly. You also enjoy sweet things more if they are not eaten regularly.

      Yes, it will take some time to learn how to cook and eat in a different way, but once you get things figured out, it is not that much harder than what you did before, especially considering the tremendous health benefits!

      Here are some WFPB guidelines that can be helpful:

      Here are some ideas for making preparation easy:

  2. I am enjoying this site very much, and am excited to make this transition and more fully experience the blessings of the word of wisdom. I’m stumbling on this one though, as I have more closely related in the past to the nourishing traditions model. Can you help me, Why is fat bad? I’ve had positive experiences with my MUFOs (olives, avocado, dark chocolate..etc), and I believe in their good and benevolent nature. I keep reading, but I’m not catching the why on this one.

    • Hi Mackenzie: Thanks for your interest and willingness to give this a try. I’m happy to help in any way I can! We hear so much about “healthy fats” that I agree it is hard to think about this topic in a different way. From a whole food, plant-based perspective, fats are both essential and vital. That is why God packaged them in nearly every plant we eat. Although the amount is low, it is all the body needs. So, when we consume extra fats, we are consuming extra calories we don’t need (unless you are underweight). In addition, processed oils, including olive oil, do active harm to our bodies by damaging the endothelial lining of our arteries. You may be interested in this article I wrote on this topic, “Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Healthy Fats & Vegetable Oils.” I hope you’ll take time to check-out the footnotes to the article and follow the links on topics of interest!

      Whole high fat plant foods (like nuts and avocados) are much healthier for the body than processed oils. Though they are very high in fat, when eaten with prudence, they can certainly be a part of a healthy diet. However, because of the high fat content, some people tend to over-eat them. Many people have a very hard time getting down to a good weight if they consume too many high fat plant foods like nuts and avocados. If this is true for you, it may be prudent to eat fewer or none of these if you want to lose weight. We live in a very unnatural world where we can eat as much of whatever we want, but in a natural world, what we can eat is restricted, which is helpful to us. It used to be you had to crack open the nuts to eat them, now we can down shelled roasted nuts with honey by the mouthfuls. The Word of Wisdom suggests we use prudence.

      I have lots more information on this topic. If you are interested, please let me know! Thanks, Jane

  3. I am reading your Word of Wisdom diet with interest. I have also read and followed Dr. Mark Hyman’s health ideas. Are you familiar with him and his books? He advocates coconut oil and avocado in his morning protein shakes, along with hemp, pumpkin seeds, chia. We really like them as they are filling for breakfast and healthy, we thought. Having switched our cupboard over to only coconut oil and EVOO from vegetable oil, it is a new idea that we don’t even need these things.

    Also, although I’ve “healthed up” our diet some ways, my husband still has issues. He has a very large protruding stomach from sitting at his job for 25 years. He prefers sweets, ice cream, chocolate, etc. We have taken the amount we eat way down, but on weekends, this is what he/we want. Also pizza. it is really hard to change someone who is obstinate! And his choices inevitably lead to me falling off the bandwagon of good intentions.

    PLUS, my husband is allergic to nuts, peas, beans, legumes. This so much limits our recipes!!! He wants snacks for work that satisfy. I can eat nuts or healthy bars…This makes my life difficult, to know what to give him.

    • Hi Donna!

      I know how you feel about olive oil. I had finally got myself off ranch dressing and into olive oil dressings when I discovered the whole food, plant-based way and realized there is a whole better way to think about “healthy fats.” Here is an article I wrote on this topics that may be helpful, “Healthy Fats & Vegetable Oils.”

      It is hard to give up lots of foods we love for a healthier diet . . . at first, but your taste buds soon adjust and you begin to LOVE the new food . . . plus you feel so much better you never want to go back!

      I’m happy to help in any way I can. Feel free to contact me!

    • Hi LaLauna!

      Almost everyone believes that olive oil is a “healthy fat.” From a whole food, plant-based perspective, not only are oils not necessary, they are harmful. If used in very small amounts or when excess calories are not a problem (as in the Bible), they won’t necessarily have a big impact on health, whole foods are always better in terms of health and nutrition.

      Here are some resources on this topic, if you are interested! Olive Oil – Not a “Healthy Fat”

  4. I have some concerns re this smackdown of olive oil. Yes, I do consume it in limited amounts as we have pretty much stopped buying commercial salad dressing.
    I can use a lot less olive oil to make a tasty dressing and dress my salads very lightly and enjoy my plant proteins.
    I love balsamic vinegar and have also had success with yogurt based dressings and the next experiment is tofu and hummus based dressing.
    For me, the sticker here is that no one seems to mention what a diabetic is supposed to do. When diagnosed after a four month illness, I was pretty much vegetarian and pretty much lived on beans and legumes. My dietician told me that more than half a cup of these could spike my sugar. I know it doesn’t happen to every one of us but it did to me and now I have to be very careful. I have adapted somewhat…I mash and freeze kidney/pinto beans in half cup measures in muffin tins for a quick meal…taco salad, homemade burrito, throw into a salad or just spike them up and eat as a spread. Always have hummus around too but it’s very difficult at times as I remember large bowls of green lentil soup, whole yellow pea soup(I am part Scandinavian) and chili. Sometimes I can have a small bowl/cup but it’s a tough one!
    That being said, I do cook as fat free as possible and use broths for flavor. We eat a lot of soup…it’s amazing what you can do with leftover greens chucked in the freezer…and cook pretty much from scratch. Fruit purees for replacing sugar…it’s still sugar. I do use stevia as a sweetener as don’t want to consume the other stuff.
    Pretty much vegetarian with the exception of fish(again, those Scandinavian genes!) and happy with the health I know have.
    I do follow the Word of Wisdom as it is a good lifestyle. Will I give up olive oil? Probably not. There are many different ideas about what is healthy etc…eggs were a no no and now it’s carbs etc.
    I just do what works for me, prayerfully and know that not one lifestyle way of eating works for everyone.
    The Lord continues to bless me in my efforts and I know that while I do read a lot of things about health, I do not take them all into my lifestyle. I do think about them and try them and if they work for me, fine. I don’t know how the Word of Wisdom really factors into this conversation actually as I feel it is being used to say that some plant based food is better than others. While I think it’s a bit of a stretch to compare oil to lettuce, I applaud your determination to educate and help others be healthy.
    for myself, my diabetes is now a factor in my cholesterol levels which have never been a problem before.
    When we discovered this, I asked my doctor for a chance to change my lifestyle to avoid statins. I had just gotten a book from a friend about better heart health and immediately(literally the next meal) planned to add some good fats to each meal. Avocado, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, black olives, fatty fish….and my cholesterol…the good stuff went up and the bad stuff went down.
    So I feel I am good where I am as olive oil is not the worst thing I can put into my body. It’s processed and junk food as far as I am concerned and am working on that and will continue to do so…for He knows my weaknesses and gives me strength.
    Yours in health…

    • Cheryl:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on my site! You are doing some very good things, and I can tell you have a good heart and are trying to do that is right and what is best for you. I feel confident that you can be as successful with your diet and your health as you want to be.

      The good news about a whole food, plant based diet is that it does not just manage diabetes, it can cure it. This happens time after time. If you are truly Type 2, this is reversible (if you are type 1 or 1.5, you can improve it, but not cure it).

      The WFPB way to approach diabetes is very different than the traditional way. Not only does it work, it is much more line with the advice the Word of Wisdom gives us. I believe Heavenly Father knew out day and our health challenges, and He gave us the advice we need, but because of the “wisdom” of the world, we are having a hard time seeing it.

      If you are interested, here is the book I recommend you read. If you aren’t sure whether this is worth your time, you can ask Heavenly Father what He thinks.

      Reversing Diabetes

      I’ve also set up a Google doc with more info on diabetes from a WFPB perspective. Again, it is very different than what the world is telling us (and the results are much better).

      Diabetes & WFPB

      If you have any specific questions, I’m happy to answer them.

      Best wishes on your journey!!

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