For years, fats were demonized for making us just that—fat. The good news is the name of this essential macronutrient may be simply an unfortunate misnomer. Some fats are actually good for us—and essential to our diets.

While it’s true that fats are higher in calories —9 in a gram versus 4 in an equivalent amount of protein or carbohydrates—not all fats are harmful. Unsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, are vital to many body functions, such as building cell membranes in the brain and improving blood cholesterol levels. They may even protect against heart disease and stroke.

Here’s how to get these beneficial fats into your diet:

Use the right salad dressing. Choose dressings made with olive or canola oil. These fats actually help your body absorb the beneficial nutrients in the leafy greens and other vegetables in the salad.

Get nutty. Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats. Walnuts and almonds, for instance, are considered nutritious options that are also easy to sprinkle on salads, in yogurts, and into stir-fries. A good amount to aim for is ¼ cup a day.

Make fish a staple. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are fats that have been linked to heart and brain health. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (put out by the USDA) recommend eating fish at least twice a week. So next time you’re torn between the sandwich options on your favorite bread at Panera, consider going with the tuna.

Go green. Dark leafy greens like spinach, romaine and kale (even the herb basil) contain a form of omega-3 fatty acids known as ALA. These tasty vegetables also provide vitamins and fiber.

Add avocado. If you can, squeeze avocado into your diet. Whether used for guacamole or a topping on your sandwich or in your salad, avocado is a tasty way to get more monounsaturated fat.

Panera Bread is a great on-the-go option for beginning your new good fats regimen. There’s a lot to love about Panera Bread–they have tons of fresh healthy menu options, no artificial sweeteners or preservatives, and free Wi-Fi. Plus, they make all of their salads and sandwiches fresh to order, so you can mix and match ingredients to create a custom order with their You-Pick-Two dining option.

Related Reading