The amount of fat you eat has a major influence on your health. Too much fat in your diet, especially saturated fats, can raise your cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. Here, we are looking at ways to reduce fat in your diet without reducing your enjoyment of food, including some tips for healthy eating.
Why do our bodies need fat?
In small amounts, fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. This is because it helps the body absorb nutrients it can’t make itself, such as vitamins A, D and E – and it’s a source of essential fatty acids, such as omega-3. But remember, a little goes a long way; the government recommends that men shouldn’t have more than 30g of saturated fat per day and women, 20g per day.1
According to Heart UK, coronary heart disease is the UK’s most common cause of death in people under 65, responsible for 73,000 deaths each year2 – which works out at an average of 200 people each day, or even more shockingly, one death every seven minutes.
Unfortunately, too many of us are eating more fat than we need according to the NHS, with the average Brit getting 12.6% of their daily energy from saturated fats – 1.6% above Government recommendations.1 It doesn’t sound like much, but a diet that is high in saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease.
So what can you do to reduce your fat intake for a healthier lifestyle?
Saturated fat tends to hide in our favourite foods such as butter, pies, cakes, fatty meats, cheese and cream so where possible, swap to lower fat alternatives. You could also try incorporating some of the suggestions below into your diet.
1. Eat fresh
One of the easiest ways to cut back on saturated fats is to eat fewer processed foods. By cooking from fresh, you’re able to see what’s going into your food and therefore are able to better control the level of fat in your meals.
2. Read food labels
Compare nutrition labels when shopping so that you can pick foods that are lower in fat. As a guide, look for foods which contain less than 1.5 grams of saturated fats per 100 grams.
3. Get lean
Not just in the physical sense! When shopping for meat, look to buy lean cuts of meat such as skinless chicken breasts, lean mince and bacon medallions instead of streaky bacon. You could also trim any visible fat from your meats to further reduce your fat intake.
4. Cooking oil
If you choose to fry your food, opt for a low-calorie oil spray rather than your usual cooking oil. Many of these cooking sprays contain less than 1 calorie per spray and are lower in saturated fat than traditional oils. Where possible though, grill, bake, poach or steam your food rather than frying it; it tastes just as good and is much healthier! If you do like to fry your food, opt for a non-stick pan as you won’t need to use as much oil, if any.
5. Go low fat
With dairy products, the easiest way to cut down fats is by switching from full fat to skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, and choosing low fat yogurts and cheeses. Try reduced-fat spreads such as olive oil spread rather than butter and when making sandwiches, try skipping the spread all together. You might find you barely notice the difference without!
6. Go green
When making a stew, casserole or even a curry, try adding more vegetables rather than meat – or switch to meat-free options such as Quorn mince. You can still add a meaty flavour using stock cubes if you wish.
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