Eat less saturated fat

Practical tips to help you cut down on the amount of fat in your diet, including saturated fat.

Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. Having high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease

Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, and cheese and cream.

We’re advised to eat less fat, especially saturated fat. UK health guidelines recommend that:

  • the average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
  • the average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day

You can use these figures to guide your choices when you're shopping. When you look at nutrition labels, you can see how easy it is to eat too much fat.

You can learn more about fat, including the different kinds of fat and their impact on our health, in Fat: the facts.

Tips on eating less fat

These tips can help you cut the total amount of fat in your diet:

  • Compare nutrition labels when shopping, so you can pick foods lower in fat.
  • Ask your butcher for lean cuts of meat, or compare nutrition labels on meat packaging. Look for meat that has visibly less fat.
  • Choose lower-fat dairy products, such as 1% fat milk, low-fat plain yoghurt or reduced-fat cheese.
  • Grill, bake, poach or steam food rather than deep frying or roasting.
  • Measure oil with a tablespoon or use an oil spray, rather than pouring it straight from a container.
  • Trim visible fat and take skin off meat before cooking.
  • Use the grill instead of the frying pan, whatever meat you’re cooking.
  • Put more vegetables or beans in casseroles and stews and curries, and a bit less meat.
  • Spoon off fats and oils from roasts, casseroles, stews and curries.
  • When making sandwiches, try leaving out the butter or spread: you might not need it if you're using a moist filling.
  • Try reduced-fat spreads, such as olive oil or sunflower spreads (a new manufacturing process solved past concerns about their trans fat content). 

Cutting down on saturated fat

Use these practical tips about common foods to help you cut down on saturated fat:

Read the label

Nutrition labels can help you cut down on saturated fat. Look out for "saturates" or "sat fat" on the label.

High: More than 5g saturates per 100g. May be colour-coded red.

Low: 1.5g saturates or less per 100g. May be colour-coded green.

Medium: If the amount of saturated fat per 100g is in between these figures, that is a medium level, and may be colour-coded amber.

The label below is an example provided by a leading supermarket, which shows clearly that the food is high in saturated fat, because the saturates section is colour-coded red.

At home

  • Spaghetti bolognese: use a lower-fat mince, as it’s lower in saturated fat. If you aren't using lower-fat mince, brown the mince first, then drain off the fat before adding other ingredients.
  • Pizza: choose a lower-fat topping, such as vegetables, ham, fish or prawns, instead of pepperoni, salami or extra cheese.
  • Fish pie: use reduced-fat spread and 1% fat milk. Try this healthy fish pie recipe.
  • Chilli: use lower-fat mince to reduce the saturated fat content. Or try it vegetarian-style by adding beans, pulses and vegetables, instead of mince. Try this healthy chilli con carne recipe.
  • Ready meals: compare the nutrition labels on different ready meals. There can be a big difference in saturated fat content. Pick the one lower in saturated fat using per 100g or per serving information. Remember, serving size may vary, so read the label carefully.
  • Potatoes: make your roast potatoes healthier by cutting them into larger pieces than usual and using just a little sunflower or olive oil.
  • Chips: choose thick, straight-cut chips instead of french fries or crinkle-cut. If you’re making your own, cook them in the oven with a little 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.
  • Chicken: before you eat it, take the skin off to reduce the saturated fat content. Try this healthy lemon chicken recipe.
  • Meat: trim the visible fat off meat such as steak.
  • Sausages: compare nutrition labels on the packs and choose the ones lower in saturated fat using per serving or per 100g information. Remember, servings may vary, so read the label carefully. Make sure you grill them instead of frying.
  • Bacon: choose back bacon instead of streaky bacon. If you’re cooking your own, grill the bacon instead of frying.
  • Eggs: prepare eggs without oil or butter. Poach, boil or dry fry your eggs.
  • Pasta: try a tomato sauce on your pasta. It’s lower in saturated fat than a creamy or cheesy sauce.
  • Milk: use 1% fat milk on your cereal. It has about half the saturated fat of semi-skimmed.
  • Cheese: when using cheese to flavour a dish or sauce, try a strong-tasting cheese, such as mature cheddar, because you’ll need less. Make cheese go further by grating instead of slicing it.
  • Yoghurt: choose a lower-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt. There can be a big difference between different products. 

Out and about

The tips below can help you cut down on saturated fat when eating out.

  • Coffee on the go: swap any large whole milk coffee for regular "skinny" ones.
  • Curry: go for dry or tomato-based dishes, such as tandoori or madras, instead of creamy curries, such as korma, pasanda or masala. Choose plain rice and chapatti instead of pilau rice and naan.
  • Kebabs: at the kebab shop go for a shish kebab with pitta bread and salad, rather than a doner kebab.
  • Chinese takeaway: choose a lower-fat dish, such as steamed fish, chicken chop suey or Szechuan prawns.
  • Thai: try a stir-fried or steamed dish containing chicken, fish or vegetables. Watch out for curries that contain coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat. If you choose one of these, try not to eat all the sauce.
  • Snack time: have some fruit, toast, a low-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt or a small handful of unsalted nuts, instead of chocolate, doughnuts, croissants or pastries. If you must have something sweet, swap cakes and biscuits for a currant bun, scone or some malt loaf, plain or with reduced-fat spread. Try these healthier food swaps

Page last reviewed: 01/06/2015

Next review due: 01/06/2017


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 637 ratings

All ratings

170  ratings
110  ratings
37  ratings
19  ratings
301  ratings

Add your rating

Healthy recipes

Healthy recipe ideas for meals low in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, but high in taste

Food labels

How to understand food labels and make healthier choices when you're shopping

Want to find out how healthy you are?

Take our quiz to see how you score

Healthy eating out

Make healthier choices when you eat out at restaurants and cafes or grab lunch on the go

Fat: the facts

Find out about the role fats play in a healthy diet, including saturated fats and unsaturated fats

Food and diet

Find out how to achieve a healthy, nutritious diet to help you look and feel your best

Lose weight

Weight loss resources to help you lose weight healthily, including the NHS 12-week diet and exercise plan