When someone tells you a food is high in fat, individuals trying to following a healthy diet commonly think – ‘I shouldn’t eat any of that!’ However not all fats are created equal! So I thought I would explain the difference between ‘Good fats’ and ‘Bad fats’ and how much of each type is ok, as part of a balanced diet.
It is important to initially understand that all fats have the same energy (kilojoules), so it may still be necessary to limit quantities of “good fats”. Eating too much fat can lead to weight gain, elevated cholesterol, heart disease and poor diabetes control.
Unsaturated Fats = Good fats
Our good fats are called unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), these fats have a positive effect on the body and actually help to lower blood cholesterol. Unsaturated fats include the commonly discussed omega-3 fatty acids which are found in concentrated amounts in fish. These are a fantastic type of unsaturated fats, and are particularly important during pregnancy due to the role in foetal development.
Unsaturated fats can be found in:
- Oily Fish
- Walnuts, Hazelnuts & Brazil Nuts Linseeds
- Omega 3 Enriched Eggs
- Plant seeds
- Olive Oil & Olives
- Canola Oil & Margarine
- Peanut Oil & Peanuts
- Plant Seeds
Saturated Fats = Bad Fats
Our bad fats are called saturated fats, these fats have no positive effect on the body, and increase the bodies bad cholesterol.
Saturated fat is found in:
- Lard, Dripping, Copha
- Palm Oil (common in processed foods)
- Fat on Meat
- Skin on Chicken
- Salami & Sausages
- Processed Deli Meats
- Full Fat Cheese, Milk and Yoghurt, Cream
- Deep Fried Foods
- Pastry, Doughnuts
- Chocolate, Cake, Biscuits, Crisps
- Coconut Cream & Milk
So how do I reduce my fat intake??
The Australian recommendations for fat state, that the percentage of our diet that should come from fat should be 20-35%. However I would always recommend aiming for the lower end of that range. The Heart Foundation recommends keeping the saturated fat component of your diet to less that 7% of total energy intake.
Some easy ways to reduce the amount of fat in your diet include:
Meat, Chicken and Seafood
- Include fish or seafood (particularly salmon, tuna, sardines) 2 – 3 times per week
- Choose lean cuts of meat and trim all visible fat before cooking
- Choose skinless chicken or remove skin before cooking
- Limit processed meats such as salami, sausage, strass, kabana etc
- Grill, dry roast, boil, steam, microwave or barbeque instead of frying in fats and oils
- Use a non stick fry pan for frying
- Consider a spray oil, or use a brush to provide an even coating with a minimum of oil
- Replace butter with a mono or polyunsaturated oil
- Avoid adding fats to cooked food such as adding butter, margarine, meat gravy or cream sauces to meals.
- Try low fat evaporated milk as an alternative to cream in sauces or coconut milk in curries. Light and Creamy have an evaporated milk with coconut essence added, which can easily be used instead of coconut milk.
- Always choose low fat or skim milk, yoghurt and cheese
Dressings & Condiments
- Replace cream or oil salad dressings with low fat or fat free varieties, lemon juice or vinegar
- Scrape margarine or a thin spread of avocado on bread instead of butter
Extra Foods & Take Away Foods
- Limit cake, biscuits, chocolate, crisps, doughnuts, croissants, muffins, pies, sausage rolls, pasties and quiches
- Limit take-away foods, especially those deep fried
Written by Sally Muir – Dietitian