It is important to remember that we are generally eating too much fat in our diet. Fats are high in calories, and consuming too many calories can lead to weight gain. Being overweight or obese increases our chances of developing many common diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
However, reducing overall fat intake, as well as choosing the right fats to eat, can help. The information on this page is designed to help you make healthier choices. More information on a balanced diet can be found on the Eatwell Guide
Good to know
It's easier than you think to reduce your fat intake
Check food labels and choose lower fat products
Choose lean cuts of meat and cut off any visible fat
Grill, bake, poach or steam rather than frying or roasting – you won’t need to add any extra fat
Add extra vegetables, beans or pulses to meals – you can use less meat and it’s cheaper too
Use cooking oils and spreads sparingly
Use high fat products less often examples
Using a light version mayonnaise or salad cream means you may not need to add butter or spread
Switch to low fat spreads that are easier to use straight from the fridge
Choose lower fat dairy food like semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk, reduced fat yoghurt or low-fat cheese
Try grating your cheese or using a stronger flavoured cheese as you tend to use less
Most people in the UK eat too much saturated fat. Cutting down on saturated fat can reduce your risk of heart disease. It’s a good idea to choose fewer foods which are high in saturated fat, including:
Fatty cuts of meat and meat products like sausages and pies
Butter, ghee and lard
Cream, soured cream, crème fraîche and ice-cream
Pastries, cakes and biscuits
Coconut oil, coconut cream and palm oil
Choosing lower saturated fat versions of these foods can help reduce your overall fat intake. Using food labels can help you to choose the healthiest products. See information about food labeling below.
Good to know
UK health guidelines recommend that:
men should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day, which is 270 calories
women should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day, which is 180 calories
You may be surprised to find out that it doesn’t take much to consume this:
Just one pat of butter contains around 5g of saturated fat and 75 calories
One tablespoon of coconut oil contains around 9.5g of saturated fat and 99 calories
One croissant contains around 6g of saturated fat and 224 calories
One medium sausage roll contains around 6g of saturated fat and 211 calories
One scoop of dairy vanilla ice cream contains around 3g of saturated fat and 101 calories
Calculated using data from McCannce and Widdowson & MAFF Portion sizes
Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats can lower blood cholesterol and help to reduce risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats usually come from plant sources, with the exception of coconut and palm oils, which are saturated fats.
Good sources of unsaturated fats include:
Sunflower, rapeseed, vegetable and olive oils and spreads
Oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, trout and salmon (aim for one portion per week)
Good to know
It’s easy to swap saturated fats for healthier unsaturated fat. Examples of swaps you can make include:
Using unsaturated oils like sunflower or rapeseed oil instead of butter, lard and ghee for cooking
Choosing lower fat spreads rather than butter
Omega 3 fatty acids
Oil-rich fish is the best source of the essential omega 3 fatty acids. These can help reduce the risk of heart disease. We should aim to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be an oil-rich fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon or herring.
Trans fats are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Trans fats are found naturally in many animal foods such as meat and dairy products. Industrially produced trans fats may be present in a wide range of foods as a result of incomplete hydrogenation of vegetable oils. However, UK manufacturers have greatly lowered levels of trans fats in their products. Therefore average intakes of trans fats are now well below maximum recommended levels. Saturated fat, rather than trans fat, is therefore the main issue of public health concern in relation to fat intake in Scotland.
Understand the label
Checking the labels on your food is one way to cut back on fat. Where colour coded labels are used you can tell at a glance if they are high, medium or low in total fat or saturated fat. For a healthier choice, try to pick products with more greens and ambers and fewer reds on the label.
Good to know
On food labels, saturated fat is sometimes called saturates or sat fat.
High fat means there’s more than 17.5g of fat per 100g of food
Low fat means 3g or less of fat per 100g of food (1.5g per 100ml of liquids)
Fat free means there is 0.5g or less per 100g or 100ml
High in saturated fat means there’s more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g of food
Low in saturated fat means 1.4g of saturates or less per 100g of food (0.75g per 100ml of liquid)
Saturated fat free means 0.1g of saturated fat per 100g or 100ml