Cut back fat - simple ways to reduce saturated fat

We all know too much fat is bad for us. But we don’t always know where it’s lurking. It seems to be in so many things we like, it can be difficult to know how to cut down.

There are two kinds of fat in the foods we eat – saturated and unsaturated fat. We need a bit of fat in our diets to help our bodies absorb vitamins and stay healthy. But we shouldn’t have too much saturated fat – this type of fat can build up in the body, leading to serious problems like a heart attack or stroke. Eating too much fat can also make us more likely to put on weight, because foods that are high in fat are also high in energy (measured in calories).

Saturated fat is in things like butter, cheese, cakes, biscuits, pastries and fatty meats like streaky bacon and sausages. To help you spot it – this kind of fat tends to be solid at room temperature.

The good news is that you don’t have to stop eating these altogether. You can still enjoy the foods you love, but you can make some healthy changes and food swaps to make sure that you cut back.

Saturated and unsaturated fats

Saturated fat – “bad” fat

Saturated fat is the “bad” type of fat and the one that we really need to watch in our diets. It can build up in our bodies, eventually leading to high blood cholesterol and increasing the chances of developing heart disease.

Unsaturated fat – “good” fat

Having unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat can help lower blood cholesterol. Try to cut down on foods high in saturated fat and replace them with foods that are rich in unsaturated fat.
Read more about saturated fats on NHS Choices

Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to go easy on the fat. These include: simple food swaps, changing the way we prepare and cook food, and comparing food labels. You can find more tips for cutting down on saturated fats below.

Ideas for reducing saturated fat

Here are some simple ways you can start cutting back on fat right away:

Easy breakfast fat swaps

  • Milk: use 1% fat milk on your cereal. It has about half the saturated fat of semi-skimmed.
  • Sausages: compare nutrition labels on the packs and choose the ones lower in saturated fat. You can spot these by looking for the amounts of fat "per serving" or "per 100g". Remember, servings may vary so read the label carefully. You can also try grilling sausages instead of frying.
  • Bacon: choose back bacon instead of streaky bacon and cook by grilling instead of frying.
  • Eggs: prepare eggs without oil or butter. Poach, boil or dry-fry your eggs.
  • Swap pastries for thin pancakes with fruit, or crumpets with a thin layer of jam.
  • Toast: have sliced banana on whole grain toast instead of white toast and butter.

Ways to reduce the fat at lunchtime

  • Potatoes: make your Sunday lunch roast potatoes healthier by cutting them into larger pieces and using just a little sunflower or olive oil.
  • Cheese can be high in saturated fat – check the label and choose cheese that’s lower in saturated fat. Grating it, rather than slicing it, will make it go further. If you choose a strong-tasting cheese, such as mature cheddar, you can use less of it because the flavour will go further.

Dinnertime fat swaps

  • Spaghetti Bolognese: use a leaner mince. It’s lower in saturated fat. If you aren't using leaner mince, brown the mince first, then drain off the fat before adding other ingredients.
  • Fish pie: use reduced-fat spread and 1% fat milk to make the sauce.
  • Chilli: use leaner mince to reduce the saturated fat content. Or try it vegetarian-style for a change by adding beans, pulses and vegetables instead of mince.
  • Chips: choose thick, straight-cut chips instead of french fries or crinkle-cut. At home, choose oven chips. If you’re making your own chips from scratch, cook them in the oven with a drizzle of sunflower oil, rather than deep-frying.
  • Mashed potato: use reduced-fat spread instead of butter, and 1% fat milk or skimmed milk instead of whole or semi-skimmed milk.
  • Meat: trim the visible fat off meat such as steak.
  • Pasta: try a tomato sauce on your pasta. It’s lower in saturated fat than a creamy, cheesy or meat sauce.
  • Pizza: choose a lower-fat topping, such as ham, vegetables, fish or prawns, instead of pepperoni, salami or extra cheese.

Dressings

Mayonnaise can be really high in saturated fat. It can turn a healthy looking meal like a salad into a less healthy one in just a couple of dollops! Keep an eye on the salad dressings too – try using low fat options, or using less than usual.

What fat swaps have you tried? Why not share your healthy eating ideas on the Change4Life Facebook page?

I’m trying to save money by making a packed lunch each day. What makes a good low-fat lunchbox?

Homemade sandwiches, bagels, pittas and rolls are great lunchtime options because bread is not high in fat – you just have to be careful what you use as a filling. Be sparing with a lower fat spread, put in plenty of salad and then a thinly-sliced low fat meat like chicken. Or you could try drained tinned tuna, mackerel or salmon with a tasty salad. You can mix in some egg mayonnaise, as long as the mayo is low fat. There are loads of great sandwich options, so just experiment! In the winter, how about a flask of homemade vegetable soup?

You can pack a pasta salad - as long as the sauce isn’t a creamy one. And don’t forget to add plenty of fruit, chopped up veg sticks, and some nuts and raisins to snack on too.
Check out our great packed lunch ideas

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