As much as a mobile phone next to an ear, fat has become a regular part of our landscape. We see it everywhere. We see it on the edge of a pork chop. We taste it in our favourite desserts. We see it masquerading as spreads. Sure we know what it looks like, what it tastes like and we know it can be bad for our health but few of us really know how fat works biologically and just how much (or how little) we should be consuming of it.
If you would like to lose some body fat then cutting back on the fat in your diet may help you to achieve just that. Eating a fat free diet is however not the solution as fat is an important dietary component and is involved in many body functions such as immunity, vitamin absorption, and hormone production.
Fats and oils are highly concentrated sources of energy and each gram of fat provides 38 kilojoules (kJ) of energy whereas each gram of carbohydrate or protein provides less than half, 17 kJ. In other words, one tablespoon of oil (15 g) will provide 570 kJ of energy. So is this a lot you may ask?
How much fat and energy do I need each day? Look at this Low Fat Diet Plan and Find Out:
Women: 40 g (10 g per meal and about 5 g per snack)
Men: 60 g (15 g per meal and about 7 g per snack)
It is better to distribute your fat intake evenly throughout the day therefore keep to 10 g to 15 g fat per meal and about 5 g fat per snack. In practical terms this means that you should only have one added fat at any one meal, which leaves a little ‘spare’ for the fat in the protein. Your starch and vegetables should preferably not contain any fat.
Are all fats equal?
Not-good-for-you fats: Saturated fats found in animals products such as meat, chicken, dairy (milk, cheese, cream , butter) and tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm kernel oil. Trans fats found in highly processed hydrogenated oils and many confectionary or fried items such as pastries, biscuits, cakes, deep fried foods, etc.
Good-for-you fats: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as high-quality, cold-pressed, less processed, non-hydrogenated plant oils, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, pilchards and trout).
Give preference to the good-for-you unsaturated fats, but still manage their portion sizes!
We all know that chocolates, cakes and cookies are loaded with kilojoules and hidden fat. But what about your other favourite foods? Could hidden fats be lurking in them too? To ensure that you don’t sabotage your lower fat eating, watch out for hidden fats in these foods:
Muffins, croissants, rusks, biscuits, crisps, chocolates, health bars, instant soups, creamed soups, salad dressings, mayonnaise, pies, granolas, gravy, coffee creamers, nougat, ice cream, milkshakes, biltong, croutons, quiches, sausage, popcorn, nuts, etc.
Practical tips on how to reduce your fat intake:
• Read labels. Look at the fat content. Choose mostly products with less than 3 g fat per 100 g.
• Meat is one of the primary sources of the less healthy saturated fat. Choose lean meat such as lean pork, lean beef and chicken without skin.
• Where possible, buy unprocessed meat, chicken and fish products, unless they are low in fat.
• Be careful of crumbed and battered products as these contain hidden fat.
• Buy tinned products in water or tomato rather than brine or oil.
• Choose fat free or low-fat dairy products such as fat free cottage cheese instead of regular cheese.
Preparation (Fat proofing your meals):
• Always remove visible fat on meat or chicken before cooking. For instance, if there is fat on the meat, trim it off or if there is skin on the chicken, remove it.
• Use lower fat preparation methods such as grilling, baking or steaming rather than frying.
• Avoid frying. Use non-stick pans and non-stick spray. Fake fry when possible by pouring a little oil into your frying pan. Heat until liquid. Pick up pan and swirl around until oil coats the base of the pan. Pour out the remaining oil.
• Keep to the correct portion size. Meat or chicken portions should be equal to the size of the palm of your hand (90 g to 120 g).
When it comes to fat, don’t underestimate the impact that a simple lower fat choice can have. Just as a small tablet can take away a big headache, so too can small changes to your diet make a big impact. Becoming a fundi may not always be easy but with a little finesse and practice you will get it right!