Did you know, every gram of fat contains 9 calories, compared to just 4 calories for each gram of protein and carbohydrates? Eating excessive amounts of fat can add up to some extra centimetres on the waist line – particularly if you’re eating the wrong types of fat!
Check out these tips for helpful ideas on how to reduce the amount of fat in your diet.
Meats and fish
There’s no doubt that meat can be tasty, and it has some great nutritional value, but it’s typically high in fat, which can make meat something of a diet danger. Reduce your fat intake from meat by following these simple suggestions:
- Trim off all visible fat and remove skin from poultry before cooking
- Choose red meat with minimal marbling
- Choose white meat like turkey or chicken over beef or pork
- Choose low-fat versions of salami, bacon and sausages
- Add extra beans, lentils, vegetables, rice or pasta to meat dishes to fill them out and boost their nutritional value
- Eat modest portions (100 – 120g) when you do eat meat
When it comes to fish, choose fresh or frozen, non-crumbed fillets. When cooking fish or meat, choose baking, grilling, dry-roasting, and steaming instead of frying to reduce its fat content.
Spreads and sauces
Spreads, sauces and dressings are great additions for adding flavour to grilled meats, breads, vegetables and salads, however they might not be such a great idea if you’re unaware of the ingredients they contain. Many sauces contain an excessively high fat content, with cheese and cream sauces being amongst the worst. Instead of destroying the goodness of your food with fatty add-ons, try these tips:
- Squeeze lemon and lime or sprinkle fresh herbs over your meat to add a hit of flavour
- Use yoghurt or reduced-fat evaporated milk in place of cream and oils in sauces
- Use high-fat spreads sparingly and spread as thinly as possible
- Spread Vegemite on your morning toast or use sugar-free jams, instead of butter or margarine
Want some salad with your dressing? How about a sprinkling of lettuce with that cheese, bacon, and crouton mix you have there?
If you think “salad” equates to “low-fat” and “healthy”, think again. Lettuce, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, and other traditional salad ingredients are very nutritious, but the add-ons can really add on a lot of fat.
To minimise the fat content of your salads, avoid adding bacon bits, croutons and cheese, and minimise your use of high-fat dressings. Use low-fat, reduced-fat, and fat-free varieties, or try one of these suggestions:
- Use flavoured vinegar or lemon juice as a dressing
- Serve your salad with a side of olive oil and vinegar. Combine the two, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper to make your own vinaigrette – delicious!
- Ask for your dressing on the side when eating out, and dip the tip of your fork into the dressing before delving into your salad. This way you can get the flavour of the dressing but only use 1/3 as much.
- Use low-fat mayonnaise when making potato salad
- Use a honey or Dijon mustard in place of mayonnaise
- Add flavoursome low-fat extras to your salad like sliced pear, sultanas, fresh herbs, mango chunks, raspberries, snow peas or bean sprouts
Breads and bakery items
Most people avoid bread due to the high carb content, but fat is also something you need to watch out for. Breads offered at most restaurants come with a side of butter – but you don’t have to use it! Many restaurants also place buttery garlic, specialty, or cheese breads on tables. Avoid the extra fat in these breads and ask for plain bread instead.
Remember, store-bought bakery items are full of both trans and saturated fats. Often, the fat content of a muffin or biscuit is higher than that of a burger – check the calorie count when indulging!
Desserts, sweets and treats
Dessert doesn’t have to be synonymous with cream, sugar, or chocolate. When it comes to sweet treats, keep these tips in mind:
- Choose low-fat puddings, low-joule jelly or diet desserts in place of full-fat alternatives
- Use low-fat yoghurt in place of ice cream – low-fat vanilla yoghurt is delicious with cakes that are traditionally served with ice cream or cream
- If you do enjoy the occasional rich dessert, limit your portion size to keep your fat intake down
- Choose dark chocolate over than milk or white, as it’s higher in antioxidants
- Choose hard lollies, jubes, or jellybeans over higher-fat chocolate or caramel treats
- Nibble on fresh or dried fruit for a low-fat snack
Vegetables and fruits
Almost all fruits and vegetables are fantastic choices when it comes to opting for low-fat foods. Even avocados, which are high in fat, are great to include in your diet, as the type of fat they contain is really good for your heart. Avocados make a good addition to salads and sandwiches, and can also be used in place of a spread on bread, toast, or crackers.
The “fat trap” with vegetables lies in the way they are cooked or served. At home, or when eating out, pay attention to the “packaging” of your vegetables.
Try these tips:
- Add a tablespoon of light sour cream (6g fat) or low-fat natural yoghurt (1g fat) instead of a tablespoon of butter (16g fat) to your potatoes
- Sauté your vegetables in a non-fat cooking spray and lemon juice instead of butter or oil
- Serve your salad dressing on the side
Dairy products are an important part of your diet, but they’re often high in fat. To minimise fat intake from dairy foods:
- Choose low-fat or skim milk.
- Choose low-fat cheeses, sour cream and yoghurts. Be aware that even low-fat cheese is often still high in fat.
- Always opt for low-fat ice cream over regular ice cream, but still have small servings.
- Don’t forget to consider the fat in your drinks. A regular-sized Gloria Jeans cafe latte with full cream milk contains nearly 10g of fat!
Soy milk and soy products can be good dairy alternatives as soy is good for your heart in moderation, and also high in protein. However, you should still opt for low-fat varieties of soy products.
Fast-foods, fried foods
Sidling up to a fast-food counter isn’t exactly the best way to keep fat out of your diet. However, some choices are better than others. Follow these tips when eating fast-food:
- Choose medium- or small-sized burgers without extra add-ons such as bacon and double cheese
- Don’t order “fries on the side” – have a side of salad instead, with low-fat dressing
- Choose grilled or baked chicken breast instead of fried chicken or chicken nuggets
- Avoid sausages and pepperoni on pizza, as these are high-fat meats. Choose vegetarian toppings and stick to a modest quantity of cheese. Eat salad instead of buttery garlic bread with your pizza, and remember to have a small serving – more than two pieces is just an invitation for a big fat diet disaster!
- Try making your own low-fat corn chips instead of purchasing chips from the supermarket. Cut up a corn tortilla, spray it with a non-stick spray and bake at 175°C until crunchy.
- You can also make your own chips and wedges. Keep the skin on for fibre, choose your thickness and cut up potatoes accordingly – bonus points if you use sweet potatoes as they’re low GI and extra high in fibre! Spray a tray with cooking spray and bake your “chips” in the oven at 200°C, or until golden. Partially cooking your potatoes in the microwave before baking will speed up the cooking time.