Reduce the Amount of Fat in Your Diet
High fat diets are not a good idea from a health point of view, but many of the foods that we enjoy eating do contain large amounts of fat. There are also many foods that we enjoy eating do contain large amounts of fat. There are also many foods where the fat is not immediately obvious, and we have to be aware of what is in the food we eat if we are to make sensible choices.
The following practical hints should help you to make healthy low fat choices. Remember, the aim is to reduce the fat content of your diet, not to attempt to eliminate fat altogether. That means a balanced approach. Some high fat items can be included.
- Using semi-skimmed milk is one obvious way of cutting your fat intake. Semi-skimmed milk has less than half of the fat content of full-fat milk, but tastes just like ordinary milk. Normal milk contains about 22 grams of fat (200 Calories) per pint (about 20 grams (180 Calories) per 500 ml) whereas semi-skimmed milk has about 9 grams of fat (80 Calories) per pint (8 grams (70 Calories) per 500 ml). Skimmed milk contains virtually no fat (about 0.6 grams (5 Calories) per pint, or about 0.5 grams per 500 ml), but it is much thinner and does mot appeal to many people. Remember, though, that both the semi-skimmed and the skimmed varieties have just as much protein and calcium as full fat milk.
- Other reduced fat dairy options -- yoghurt, fromage frais, some low fat cheeses - are also just as good as the full fat versions, but can make a big difference to your fat and energy intake. These products can be used in many recipes instead of high fat ingredients such as cream or evaporated milk. Low fat cheeses are available: ordinary cheddar cheese contains about 20 grams of fat in a 2 ounce (55 gram) portion, but low fat cheddar has only about 7 grams of fat in the same sized portion.
- If you want to continue to use high fat spreads -- and many people do prefer the taste - try to spread them more thinly. If you really do prefer the taste, this might be a better option than the low fat varieties. Remember that a half portion of a high fat spread has the same fat content as a full portion of a half-fat spread. Any changes to your diet should be ones that you can be comfortable with. If not, you won't stick to them.
- Salad dressings can be very high in fat. Oil-based dressings, mayonnaise and salad cream are all high in fat. Although reduced fat varieties are available, many people find them poor imitations of the real thing. It might be better to go for something totally different. Appetising salad dressings can be made with a yoghurt (low fat natural yoghurt), tomato juice, vinegar or lemon juice base with the addition of herbs and spices.
- Simply changing the type of snacks you eat can make a big difference without any impact on your main meals. If you normally eat crisps (9 grams of fat in one small bag), nuts (12 grams of fat in a small bag of peanuts), chocolate (15 grams of fat in one small bar) or sweet biscuits (3 grams of fat in one biscuit), try instead fresh or dried fruit (no fat), or crisp vegetables such as carrot or celery (no fat).
- Grilling rather than frying food can help reduce fat intake. If having fish, this can be steamed or baked without adding any fat. Fish deep fried in batter can add an enormous amount of fat to a single meal: one average sized portion (about 6 ounces, or 170 grams) of steamed or poached cod contains 2 grams of fat (18 Calories), whereas the same sized portion fried in batter contains about 20 grams of fat (180 Calories). This is OK as a treat once in a while, but cooking fish this way should be the exception rather than the rule.
- Many low-cost sausages and burgers are very high in fat. Try not to have these on the menu too often. If having them at home, try to find low fat varieties -- these typically have about 50% of the fat content of the standard versions - and grill rather than fry them.
- Many savoury foods, including meat pies, sausage rolls etc, are high in fat. All pastry products have a significant fat content and should be eaten sparingly.
- Try stewing rather than frying or grilling meat. Remove as much as possible of the visible fat from meat before cooking, and cook without any added fat or oil. If using mince, brown it as normal, add a little water and leave to cool for a few minutes. The fat will rise to the surface and can be poured or spooned off. Don't eat the skin on poultry or the crackling on pork. This contains most of the fat in these meats. Cut off the visible fat from bacon, pork, lamb and other roast meats if you can see any on the meat on your plate.
- Reduce the number of times per week that you have chips. If eating away from home, you can usually opt for something else from the menu. They can be your special treat once or twice a week. If you are making chips at home, cut the potatoes thickly (they will absorb about 50% less fat, giving about 7 grams of fat (63 Calories) in a 4 ounce (110 gram) portion rather than the 14 grams (125 Calories) in the same quantity of thin-cut chips), fry in very hot oil, and drain on a kitchen towel before serving. As with other cooking, use an oil that is high in unsaturated fats. Oven chips are a useful low fat option. Roast potatoes absorb much less fat than chips, and baked, boiled or mashed potatoes contain virtually no fat at all.
- You don't have to eat everything on your plate. Learn not to feel uncomfortable about leaving the high fat parts of a meal at the side of your plate. You should be able to eat what you want and no more.
Remember, though, that all of the above can reduce your fat intake, but another way you can achieve a reduction in fat intake is by decreasing the portion sizes that you put on your plate. Using low fat options and the other strategies outlined above to reduce your fat intake are no us eat all if you ee this as an invitation to eat as much as you can at every available opportunity.
This article has been contributed by Professor Ron Maughan of Loughborough University's School of Exercise and Science.
Professor Ron Maughan retains the rights to be identified as the author of this article, it cannot be reproduced without his permission.
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