Low-fat Diet Sheet

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.

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
Porridge oats
High-fibre breakfast cereals
Wholegrain rice and pasta
White flour and bread
Low-fibre breakfast cereals
White rice and pasta
Plain biscuits
Plain or fruit scones
Croissants
Fried bread
Most cakes and biscuits
Pastries
Suet pudding
Fruit, veg and nuts All fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit
Dried beans and lentils
Baked potatoes
Dried fruit
Walnuts
Oven chips
Avocados
Olives
Almonds
Pecans
Hazelnuts
Chips
Fried or roast potatoes
Fried, creamed, buttered or cheesed vegetables
Crisps and potato snacks
Coconut
Brazils
Roasted peanuts
Fish All white fish
Oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines, kippers, pilchards, or salmon (not tinned in oil)
Shellfish Fish roe
Caviar
Meat Lean white meat such as chicken and turkey breast (without skin) Lean ham, beef, pork, and lamb
Lean mince
Liver and kidney
Visible fat on meat
Crackling
Sausages
Pâtés
Duck, goose
Meat pies/pasties
Eggs, dairy foods Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
Cottage or curd cheese
Low-fat yoghurt
Egg whites
Edam
Camembert
Parmesan
Up to 3 egg yolks a week
Whole milk
Cream
Ice cream
Most hard cheeses
Chocolate
Cream cheese
Fats and spreads None Low-fat spreads
Margarine high in polyunsaturates
Corn oil, sunflower oil and olive oil
Butter
Dripping and lard
Margarine not high in polyunsaturates
Drinks and soups Tea and coffee
Mineral water
Fruit juices
Packet soups
Alcoholic drinks
Cream soups
Milky drinks
Sugary drinks

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.

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:

Saturated fats

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.

Unsaturated fats

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.

Original Author:
Dr Tim Kenny
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Beverley Kenny
Last Checked:
15/12/2011
Document ID:
4759 (v38)
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