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We all need some fat in our diet. But too much of a particular kind of fat – saturated fat – can raise our cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. It's important to cut down on fat and choose foods that contain unsaturated fat.

Eating too much fat can also make us more likely to put on weight, because foods that are high in fat are high in energy too, which is measured in kilojoules (kJ) or calories (kcal). Being overweight raises our risk of serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as coronary heart disease.

But this doesn’t mean that all fat is bad. We need some fat in our diet because it helps the body absorb certain nutrients. Fat is a source of energy as well as some vitamins (such as vitamins A and D), and provides essential fatty acids that the body can’t make itself. Fresh fish such as salmon, trout or mackerel are good sources of essential fatty acids and Omega 3 (good for the brain). 

There are two main types of fat found in food: saturated and unsaturated. As part of a healthy diet, we should try to cut down on food that is high in saturated fat such as biscuits, cakes, bacon, sausages, processed meat, butter and cream.

Tips for eating less fat

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

  • Compare nutrition labels when shopping, so you can pick foods lower in fat. Use the 'per serving' or 'per 100g' information to compare different foods. Remember, servings may vary, so read the label carefully.
  • Ask your butcher for lean cuts of meat, or compare nutrition labels on meat packaging.
  • Choose lower-fat dairy products, such as 1% fat milk or lower-fat cheese.
  • Grill, bake, poach or steam food rather than frying or roasting, that way you won't need to add any extra fat.
  • Measure oil with tablespoons rather than pouring it straight from a container: this will help you use less.
  • 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, stews and curries, and a bit less meat. And skim the fat off the top before serving.
  • When making sandwiches, try leaving out the butter or spread: you might not need it if you're using a moist filling. When you do use spread, go for a reduced-fat variety and choose one that is soft straight from the fridge, so it's easier to spread thinly.

Fact Zone

Foods that are high in saturated fats include: fatty cuts of meat, meat products like sausages and pies, butter, cheese and biscuits.
Eating too much fat can lead to putting on weight and becoming overweight. This can put you at risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Trimming excess fat off cuts of meat and bacon will help to reduce your intake of fat.
Most of us eat too much saturated fat. The average man should eat a maximum of 30g of saturated fat a day, 20g for women.
Frying or roasting foods can add extra fat. Choose to grill, poach, bake or steam your foods instead.
We need a small amount of fat in our diets because it can help the body to absorb certain nutrients, but it is important not to eat too much of it.
Make a change and commit to lowering your intake of fat by choosing lower-fat dairy products like 1% fat milk or lower-fat cheese.
To reduce your intake of saturated fats always check the nutritional labels on foods and choose the option with lower levels of fat (particularly saturated fats).
Some fat is necessary for a healthy diet, but too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol, putting you at risk of heart disease.
Help to reduce your intake of fat by asking your butcher for lean cuts of meat or check the levels of saturated fat on the nutrition label.
Remember that foods that are ‘low in fat’ may not be low in calories; always check the nutrition labels carefully.