How to eat less saturated fat

Too much saturated fat can cause weight gain and raised cholesterol. Find out how you can cut down.

Practical tips to help you eat less fat, including saturated fat.

Eating lots of saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease

Saturated fat is found in:

  • butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil and palm oil 
  • cakes 
  • biscuits
  • fatty cuts of meat
  • sausages 
  • bacon
  • cured meats like salami, chorizo and pancetta
  • cheese
  • pastries, like pies, quiches, sausage rolls and croissants
  • cream, crème fraîche and sour cream
  • ice cream
  • coconut milk and cream
  • milk shakes
  • chocolate and chocolate spreads 

UK health guidelines recommend that:

  • the average man aged 19-64 years should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day
  • the average woman aged 19-64 years should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day

Find out more about the risks of eating too much fat in Fat: the facts.

Tips to eat less fat

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

  • Compare food labels when shopping so you can pick foods lower in fat – use the Be Food Smart app.
  • Choose lower fat or reduced fat dairy products.
  • Grill, bake, poach or steam food rather than frying or roasting.
  • Measure oil with a teaspoon to control the amount you use, or use an oil spray.
  • Trim visible fat and take the skin off meat and poultry before cooking.
  • Choose leaner cuts of meat that are lower in fat, like turkey breast and reduced fat mince.
  • Make your meat stews and curries go further by adding veg and beans.
  • Try reduced fat spreads, such as those based on olive or sunflower oils.  

How to cut down on saturated fat

Practical tips to help you specifically cut down on saturated fat:

At the shops

Nutrition labels on the front and back of packaging can help you cut down on saturated fat. Look out for "saturates" or "sat fat" on the label.

High: More than 5g saturates per 100g. May be colour-coded red. 

Medium: Between 1.5g and 5g saturates per 100g. May be colour-coded amber.

Low: 1.5g saturates or less per 100g. May be colour-coded green.

This is an example of a label that shows an item is high in saturated fat because the saturates section is colour-coded red.

Aim to choose products with green or amber for saturated fat. There can be a big difference in saturated fat content between similar products.

Pick the one lower in saturated fat. Serving sizes can vary, so make sure you're comparing like for like. The easiest way to do this is by looking at the nutritional content per 100g.

At home

Spaghetti Bolognese: use a lower fat mince, as it's lower in saturated fat. If you aren't using lower fat mince, brown the mince first, then drain off the fat before adding other ingredients. Alternatively, mix meat mince with a meat-free mince alternative.

Pizza: choose a lower fat topping, such as vegetables, chicken, tuna and other seafood instead of extra cheese or cured meats like pepperoni, salami and bacon. 

Fish pie: use reduced fat spread and 1% fat milk to reduce the fat in the mash and sauce. Try this healthy fish pie recipe.

Chilli: use lower fat mince or mix in a meat-free mince alternative. Or, make a vegetarian chilli using mixed beans, some lentils and vegetables – try this healthy chilli con carne recipe. Beans and lentils can count towards your 5 A Day, too.

Chips: choose thick, straight-cut chips instead of french fries or crinkle-cut to reduce the surface area exposed to fat. If you're making your own, cook them in the oven with a little sunflower oil and the skins on, rather than deep frying.

Potatoes: make your roast potatoes healthier by cutting them into larger pieces than usual and using just a little sunflower or olive oil.

Mashed potato: use reduced fat spread instead of butter, and 1% fat milk or skimmed milk instead of whole or semi-skimmed milk.

Chicken: go for leaner cuts, such as chicken breast. Before you eat it, take the skin off to reduce the saturated fat content. Try this healthy lemon chicken recipe.

Bacon: choose back bacon instead of streaky bacon, which contains more fat. Grill instead of frying. 

Eggs: prepare eggs without oil or butter. Poach, boil or dry fry your eggs.

Pasta: try a tomato-based sauce on your pasta. It's lower in saturated fat than a creamy or cheesy sauce.

Milk: use 1% fat milk on your cereal and in hot drinks. It has about half the saturated fat of semi-skimmed.

Cheese: when using cheese to flavour a dish or sauce, try a strong-tasting cheese, such as reduced fat mature cheddar, as you'll need less. Make cheese go further by grating instead of slicing it.

Yoghurt: choose a lower fat and lower sugar yoghurt. There can be a big difference between different products. 

Eating out

Tips to help you cut down on saturated fat when eating out.

Coffee: swap large whole milk coffee for regular "skinny" ones. Avoid adding cream on top. 

Curry: go for dry or tomato-based dishes, such as tandoori or madras, instead of creamy curries like korma, pasanda or masala. Choose plain rice and chapatti instead of pilau rice and naan.

Kebabs: go for a shish kebab with pitta bread and salad rather than a doner kebab.

Chinese: choose a lower fat dish, such as steamed fish, chicken chop suey or Szechuan prawns.

Thai: try a stir-fried or steamed dish containing chicken, fish or vegetables. Watch out for curries that contain coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat. If you choose one of these, try not to eat all the sauce.

Snack time: swap foods high in sugar, salt and fat, such as chocolate, doughnuts and pastries, for:

  • some fruit
  • wholegrain toast
  • low-fat and lower sugar yoghurt
  • a small handful of unsalted nuts
  • a currant bun
  • a slice of fruit loaf
  • a slice of malt loaf

Try these healthier food swaps

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