by Allison Task, author of Lighten Up, America! and our 12 Healthy Habits Coach

When I think “Eat more healthy fat” my mind instantly gravitates to avocados as a daily snack, adding handfuls of roasted sunflower seeds to my salads, and finishing that grilled fish with a generous drizzle of olive oil. I think I’m starting to drool. 

It’s nice to have permission, isn’t it?

In addition to those healthy fats, I’m also a fan of something I’ll call “available fat.” That’s the bacon fat that remains in the pain after you cook a few strips of bacon, or the chicken fat that renders when you sear skin-on breasts or thighs.

I’ve read recipes that will have you cook a couple strips of bacon that you’ll using in a spinach salad, then throw out that glorious bacon fat and using vegetable oil for the dressing instead. Really? I’d prefer use a teaspoon or two of that bacon fat, in combination with a more neutral oil like canola, and enhance the flavor of the bacon vinaigrette I want to enjoy on that steak salad.

Yes, animal fats have a lot of saturated fat. And while I’m not suggesting you use 1/4 cup of bacon fat in the vinaigrette, I am suggesting that when that fat makes itself available, don’t give it all to the dog, save some to give added depth of flavor to your food. Calorie wise, there’s no difference between saturated and unsaturated fat, but there is a big difference in the flavor. And heck, if we’re talking about using that small amount of saturated fat on a spinach salad, aren’t we being virtuous enough?

One of my favorite available fats is chicken fat – because of its personal significance to me. I am Jewish, and my kosher relatives have used chicken fat in their cooking where others would use butter, since according to kosher law, you can’t combine dairy and meat in the same dish. So when I roast chicken, and I have all that fat in the bottom of the pan, it reminds me of my grandmother who would keep a bit of that fat to use when she made matzoh balls (soup dumplings). This was her secret for fluffy matzoh balls.

So I save a quarter cup of the fat, which is enough to make matzoh balls for an army. As a semi-annual indulgence, I think it’s worth the small amount of additional saturated fat on those special occasions.

This month, when you’re thinking about healthy fats, like nut, avocado and fish oils, also keep in mind the kitchen fats that become available through the natural cooking process and have the ability to make your dishes more delicious, and return past family cooking traditions to your modern, healthy kitchen.