Ways to cut down on fat

Ways to cut down on fat

Fats can wreak havoc on our bodies and contribute to weight gain if we eat too much. Although we need fats in our diet, many of us are unaware of how to maintain a healthy weight because we’re not consuming the right amount and types of fat. Cutting down on fat is not as hard as we think, and it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to give up our favourite foods. Get started with these simple tips.

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Fats we love

Unsaturated fats are great for our bodies – they lower our cholesterol levels and give us the fatty acids we need. These ‘good fats’ come in two forms – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in fish (especially oily fish), nuts (walnuts and Brazil nuts), seeds (such as sesame – hommus and tahini are great!), polyunsaturated margarines and some oils (sunflower, safflower, soy, and corn.) Monounsaturated fats are found in avocado, nuts and nut spreads (peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds), margarine spreads (such as canola or olive oil based), and oils such as olive, canola and peanut oil.

Check those labels

Food labels are listed in order of quantity. That means if the label on the product lists fats first, it means it’s high in fat. Be on the lookout for other fats on labels too (such as oil, shortening, cocoa butter or cream). Go for ‘low’ or ‘reduced fat’ dairy products. And when selecting processed foods, choose those with less than 5 g per 100 g of total fat.

Hint: download a free app like FoodSwitch, which scans barcodes on food labels and gives their nutritional value. If you have kids get them to help you shop – it teaches them all about healthy eating.

Beware of trans fats

Trans fats (also known as trans fatty acids) are actually worse than saturated fats. They are variants of unsaturated fats that have been altered during the manufacturing process to make fats and oils harden, (imagine what they’re doing to our insides)! These fats alter our cholesterol levels for the worse and put us at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. That’s why it’s important to limit products where fats have been altered in some way, (such as deep-fried food, pies, pastries, cakes, donuts and some margarines and butter). Small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in milk, cheese, beef and lamb and are not dangerous.

Hint: read food labels carefully and if you see trans fat listed choose another product.

Learn to love vegies and legumes

The best way to cut down on bad fats is to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and legumes (or pulses). Pack a punch by adding as many colours and varieties as you can. Learn to love legumes – they fill us up and are loaded with fibre, vitamins and antioxidants.

Hint: try adding legumes to your vegie intake – one serve of legumes is 75 g (about a half a cup) of cooked beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils. If you don’t have time to cook from dried, use canned instead. Try our hearty vegetable soup.

Be a master chef

Be adventurous in the kitchen – try healthier methods and modify recipes. Steam, bake, grill, braise, boil or microwave meals rather than frying in loads of oil. For example, meat, fish and vegetables can be roasted in the oven – put meat on a rack with a dish underneath to collect oil and fat. Invest in some non-stick cookware to lessen the amount of oil required. Replace oil with liquids too (such as chicken or beef stock, red or white wine, lemon juice, fruit juice, vinegar or even tap water).

Hint: look for healthy alternatives to popular meals – give these potato wedges a go, they’re better than chips, quick to make and the dishes aren’t as greasy to clean!

Get the good oil

When cooking, get into the habit of using a small amount of oil, margarine and butter. Grease pans with cooking spray, or use a pastry brush to apply oils and spreads directly to food instead of adding it to the pan. Use unsaturated oils and spreads, such as canola, olive, safflower, sunflower, corn or soy. Watch coconut oil and cream, they’re high in saturated fat.

Hint: when cooking with oil, or using unsaturated spreads (such as margarine on sandwiches), aim for one teaspoon per person. Measure it out too – or you may end up eating more than you bargained for!

Be dairy aware

Go for low or reduced-fat dairy products when you can. Full fat milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives are an important source of calcium and nutrients in our diet, but can increase our kilojoule count if we’re not careful. Unless a recipe states otherwise, stick to reduced or low-fat varieties. Limit your intake of meals with creamy sauces and swap them for pesto, salsa, chutneys and tomato-based sauces – they’re much better on our waistlines! Use low-fat yoghurt or milk, evaporated skim milk or cornflower instead of cream in sauces or soups.

Note: reduced or low fat milk is not recommended for children under two.

Lean meat is best

If you’re a carnivore, watch how much saturated fat you’re eating. Buy lean meat, trim off any visible fat, remove skin from poultry and limit fatty processed meats, (such as sausages and salami). Processed meats are high in salt and higher in saturated fat than lean meat – so make them occasional foods and not part of your daily diet. Put less meat in dishes by increasing the amount of vegies and legumes you eat. One pot meals such as stews, curries and casseroles are ideal. Try to go meat-free at least one day a week. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out these healthy recipes.

Hint: aim for 65 g of cooked lean red meat (no more than 455 g per week), or 80 g of cooked lean poultry per serve, (a serve is roughly the size of your palm). We only need around one to three serves of protein (e.g. lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts or seeds and legumes) each day. Remember, our dietary needs vary depending on our age and gender.