Eat less saturated fat

Eating a diet that is high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. High cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. These practical tips can help you cut down on saturated fat.

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.

Most of us eat too much saturated fat – about 20% more than the recommended maximum amount.

  • 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 are shopping. When you check nutrition labels on food packaging and see how much saturated fat is contained in many common foods, you’ll see how easy it can be to exceed the recommended maximum amount.

You can learn more about fat, including how nutrition labels can help you cut down, in Fat: the facts.

Cut down on saturated fat

Read the label

Nutrition labels can help you to cut down on saturated fat. Look out for the figure for ‘saturates’ or ‘sat fat’ on the label:
• High: more than 5g saturates per 100g. May display a red traffic light.

• Low: 1.5g saturates or less per 100g. May display a green traffic light.

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

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

First are tips for eating at home. Next, tips for eating out-and-about.

At home

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Chicken: before you eat it, take the skin off to reduce the saturated fat content.
  • 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 cheese instead of slicing it.
  • Yoghurt: choose a lower-fat 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. And 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 yoghurt or a 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.
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