Butter and margarine
Cooking fats and oils
Cakes and biscuits
Fats are the most concentrated source of calories (energy) in our diet. There are two main types of fat, saturated and unsaturated, which differ in their chemical structure.
Saturated fats are mainly from animal sources such as butter, lard, meat and dairy products.
Coronary Heart Disease is a serious health problem in this country. Two of the factors which increases the risk of developing heart disease are a high cholesterol level in the blood and obesity. A high intake of fat of any kind can lead to obesity, and a diet high in saturated fat can lead to increased blood cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fats lower cholesterol.
Another type of fat which can also have an adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels is trans fat. Anything with “hydrogenated vegetable fat or oil” in the ingredients list is very likely to contain trans fats. The main sources of trans fats in the diet are processed foods such as biscuits, chocolates, savoury snacks and puddings. In addition, some margarines and solid cooking fats are made from hydrogenated fats.
Sugar can provide the body with energy but no other nutrients. However, we do not need this sugar to meet our energy requirements. We can obtain all the energy we need from other foods of higher nutritional value, especially starchy foods.
As with fat, a high sugar intake can often lead to an overall increased calorie intake, which increases the risk of obesity. A high sugar intake can also increase the risk of developing abnormal levels of another type of fat named triglycerides. High levels of this type of fat in the bloodstream are also known to increase the risk of heart disease.
Aim to keep fatty and sugary foods to a minimum. When choosing pre-prepared foods, read the labelling to select those with a low fat or low sugar content.
Use less fat for cooking and try to use alternative methods of cooking such as grilling, microwaving, dry roasting, steaming or poaching. If you do use oil, keep to small quantities and choose one high in monounsaturates.
Use less butter and margarine and remember to spread them thinly, even if using low fat spreads. Try to choose a margarine or spread high in monounsaturated fat.
Cutting down on fatty foods will often automatically reduce the sugar content of the diet as many foods high in fat are also high in sugar. Examples include cake, chocolate and biscuits.
Milk and dairy products
Cows milk can provide the body with nearly all of its required nutrients, as it is a good source of protein and many vitamins and minerals. However, on its own, it cannot provide sufficient iron, vitamin C or vitamin D.
Milk and dairy foods provide over half of the calcium in the typical British diet. The calcium present in dairy foods is one of the easiest forms to be absorbed into the body. Most of the body’s calcium is found in our bones and teeth. Calcium is also important in blood clotting, controlling blood pressure, helping muscles to contract and relax, and controlling our heartbeat.
Calcium is important for us all but is needed in larger amounts by growing children and adolescents, breastfeeding mums and by women after the menopause.
It is often assumed that skimmed and semi-skimmed milk contain less calcium, but in fact, calcium levels are slightly higher in skimmed and semi-skimmed milk than in whole milk (full cream).
The fat in milk and dairy products is mostly saturated. Whole (full cream) milk contains about 4% fat, semi-skimmed milk contains between 1.5 and 1.8 % fat, and skimmed milk has almost all of the fat removed. Full-fat cheddar cheese is typically around 30% fat.
Low fat yoghurt or crème fraiche are healthier alternatives to cream.
Try using low fat cheeses or even cottage cheese. If you use full fat versions, try to have stronger flavoured cheese and aim for smaller portions. Eat cheese as part of a meal rather than as an additional snack.