Confused about fat? Don’t be. Despite the clamour of celebrity ‘experts’, the science is clear. So, based on the latest evidence, here is the best way for you to manage the fats in your healthy diet.
Fat is a hotly debated topic right now — and it can also be a confusing one. One of the criticisms often levelled against dietitians is that their position on fat is outdated — that they promote a low-fat diet. But this simply isn’t true. The science shows dietary fat plays a vital role, but whether we should go ‘open slather’ on butter is another question. We need to consider the types of fats we consume, and what level of consumption of certain fats is safe.
Fats are vital to every cell in your body, and they're key to ensuring that you get your share of vitamins A, D, E and K.
Not all fats are created equal. Unsaturated fats, like those found in plant oils (think olive oil), or in oily fish, are needed for optimal health.
For better heart health, we need to limit saturated fats such as those found in meat, fried foods, biscuits, pastry, and coconut and palm oils.
Healthy Food Guide recipes call for reduced-fat dairy products because these products help to keep down the overall amount of saturated fat we consume in meals.
Why limit saturated fats?
They have a strong link to an increased risk of heart disease.
Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats improves blood cholesterol profiles.
Limiting saturated fats helps reduce kilojoules, which makes it much easier for you to maintain a healthy body weight.
Some room for saturated fat
You should aim to get no more than 10 per cent of your energy (kilojoules) from saturated fat, so in an overall 8700kJ (2000cal) intake per day, that means consuming up to 24g sat fat.
We advocate swapping fats
When you reduce the saturated fat in your diet, you’re better off trading it for good fats, rather than for highly processed carbohydrates, such as cakes and pastries.
The reduced-fat products we use in Healthy Food Guide recipes are mostly to limit saturated fat, but on occasion they’re to manage the total kilojoules. Most of our main meal recipes have less than 7g saturated fat and no more than 2500kJ (600cal) per serve.
The fat in our recipes
At Healthy Food Guide we recommend keeping an eye on how much saturated fat you’re eating, which is why our recipes tend to feature low or reduced-fat dairy products.
Sometimes a small amount of a high-fat ingredient, such as cream, is fine to use. But we tend to steer clear of these in our recipes, so that you’re not left with the remainder of the cream or butter sitting in your fridge after you’ve made the dish. However, if your diet is low in saturated fat overall, you can probably afford to enjoy a bit of butter on your toast or eat full-fat yoghurt.
We select and ‘juggle’ recipe ingredients so that key components — particularly kilojoules, saturated fat and sodium — keep within our guidelines.
Cottage cheese is naturally low in fat. However, in some of our recipes we use reduced-fat cottage cheese, while in others we make use of the regular version, depending on how much room there is for more saturated fat in the recipe.
Parmesan is high in saturated fat, but it’s also high in flavour, which means that you can use less of it to greater effect.
We aim to limit the kilojoules in our baking and sweets by limiting their total fat and sugar, because there are better sources of energy and 'good fats' than those usually found in treats.
High-fat foods we LOVE
nuts and nut butters
extra-virgin olive oil
oily fish, such as salmon
High-fat foods we LIMIT
Small amounts of these foods are okay, but avoid regularly eating large amounts:
The bottom line is…
Ultimately, we need to decide for ourselves which foods we will get our saturated fat from.
So use full-cream milk if that’s your only source of saturated fat, or have a dab of butter on your toast. But if many of your pantry staples are of the high saturated fat variety, it’s probably time to take stock and follow our easy ways to reduce saturated fat.
If you don’t choose lower saturated fat products, it’s easy for foods to start adding up to a high-saturated fat day.
Is your day high or low in saturated fat?
250ml full-cream milk
1 tablespoon butter
125g sirloin steak with fat
1 packet potato crisps
27.6g sat fat
1250ml skim milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
125g skinless salmon fillet
small handful (30g) almonds
7.5g sat fat
Easy ways to reduce sat fat
Use oil (not coconut oil) and reduced-fat versions of spread, coconut milk and dairy products.