A diet that is generally low in fat and healthy can help you to lose weight, or maintain your weight. It can also help to you to lower your cholesterol level.
Example of a diet sheet
|Food Type||Foods that can be eaten regularly (little or no fat and/or 'healthy' foods)||Foods to be eaten in moderation||Foods to avoid or to eat rarely (high in fat and/or 'unhealthy' foods)|
|Cereal foods||Wholemeal flour and bread
High-fibre breakfast cereals
Wholegrain rice and pasta
|White flour and bread
Low-fibre breakfast cereals
White rice and pasta
Plain or fruit scones
Most cakes and biscuits
|Fruit, veg and nuts||All fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit
Dried beans and lentils
Fried or roast potatoes
Fried, creamed, buttered or cheesed vegetables
Crisps and potato snacks
|Fish||All white fish
Oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, kippers, pilchards, or salmon (not tinned in oil)
|Meat||Lean white meat such as chicken and turkey breast (without skin)||Lean ham, beef, pork, and lamb
Liver and kidney
|Visible fat on meat
|Eggs, dairy foods||Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
Cottage or curd cheese
Up to 3 egg yolks a week
Most hard cheeses
|Fats and spreads||None||Low-fat spreads
Margarine high in polyunsaturates
Corn oil, sunflower oil and olive oil
Dripping and lard
Margarine not high in polyunsaturates
|Drinks and soups||Tea and coffee
Low-fat diets and weight loss or weight maintenance
The list of foods above is just a guide as to the best sorts of foods to eat that in general contain less fat and calories 'weight for weight' or 'portion for portion'.
If you want to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories per day than you have been eating (or do more exercise). In general, foods high in fat contain a lot of calories. However, there are other foods that contain a lot of calories. In particular, sweets and sugar do not contain fat, but are high in calories. Therefore, in addition to a low-fat diet, you also have to watch out for other types of foods such as sweets and sugary foods.
See separate leaflets called 'Healthy Eating' for a more general overview of food and health, and 'Weight Reduction - How to Lose Weight' which gives advice if you are planning to lose weight.
More about fats
Not all fat is bad! Although all fats are high in calories, we need some fat in our diet, and some types of fat are actually good for our health. The different types of fat include the following:
These are mainly found in the harder fats such as the fat on meat, lard, and the fat in dairy products such as butter, full-cream milk, etc. There are also fats called 'trans fats' (hydrogenated vegetable oils). These are oils which come from vegetables but have been processed to make them hard and similar to saturated fats. They are often used in processed foods, and in commercially made cakes, biscuits and pastries.
We should try to limit our intake of saturated fats and trans fats, as they contribute to weight gain and a raised cholesterol level.
These mainly come from vegetables, nuts and fruits. They are divided into:
- Polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower oil, and corn oil.
- Mono-unsaturated fats such as olive oil and rapeseed oil.
- Omega 3 fatty acids. These come mainly from oily fish such as pilchards, sardines, salmon mackerel and fresh (not tinned) tuna. Some omega 3 fatty acids are found in various plant foods and vegetable oils.
Unsaturated fats are 'good fats' as they are less likely to raise your cholesterol level. Omega 3 fatty acids are also thought to help prevent heart disease and may help to improve our health in other ways. See separate leaflet called 'Cholesterol' which gives more details about reducing your cholesterol level.
Foods that contain fat often contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats. Food labels often list the amounts of each type of fat in the food (or at least how much of the fat in the food is saturated). As a rule, we should aim to limit our intake of saturated fats, and when we use fats and oils, mainly to choose those high in unsaturates. Food labels also show how many calories are in the food. So, it may be a good idea to get into the habit of reading food labels when you shop.
Further reading & references
- Obesity; NICE Clinical Guideline (2006)
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Tim Kenny
Dr Tim Kenny
Dr Beverley Kenny