Fats: 11 easy ways to eat less but better

Fat is often seen as public enemy number 1 when it comes to excess weight. We now know that it isn't "fat" that makes you put on weight, but rather the overconsumption of fat and eating poor-quality fat. So how can you eat less bad fat and more good fat to stay healthy? 

Fats: 11 easy ways to eat less but better

For many years, the food industry has sought to banish fat, blaming it for weight gain and cardiovascular disease. Faced with the proliferation of "low-fat" and "fat-free" products, and even with diets that exclude fat entirely, its bad reputation has stuck around.

But we now know that fat is essential for renewing our cells, for hormonal balance, and for the correct functioning of our brains. Going without fat definitely isn't a good idea! Quite the opposite, actually: eating it in moderate amounts, and choosing to eat the "good" fats, is essential for our health.

Check out our 11 simple tips for eating more healthily and making better choices.

TIP #1: Know the difference between good and bad fats

The first step is to understand that fat is necessary for our health and that it plays an important role in our metabolism.
Find out more about the role of fat in our dedicated article.

The second step is to be aware that there are two main families of fat:
"good" fats;
and "bad" fats.

The "good" fats are where we get our energy from. This is what we should be aiming to eat each day. They're found in natural and raw foods such as avocado, fish, organic cold-pressed vegetable oils, nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, etc.).

"Bad" fat should be limited as much as possible. But how can you avoid it? That's easy: rid your diet of any processed foods containing hydrogenated oils, i.e. ones that have been processed by humans, and of saturated fats, which cause cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

TIP #2: Choose the right cheese

Not such a fan of desserts? Prefer to round off a meal with some cheese and biscuits? Instead of making yourself go without, opt for soft cheeses such as goat's cheese or feta, rather than hard, calorie-rich cheeses like comté, parmesan and gouda.

Soft goat's and sheep's cheese is the best alternative to cow's cheese. In fact, cow's milk encourages the body's inflammatory response, which can lead to health problems.

TIP #3: Fry with water!

Lots of us automatically reach for the oil when frying vegetables. Did you know that you can replace this oil with a splash of water? You'll still get the same golden, crunchy effect that gives your veggies their tasty flavour.

Most vegetable oils, along with butter, can't withstand high cooking temperatures and can even become carcinogenic. So just when you think you're being healthy by eating vegetables, you might actually be doing yourself harm.
It's worth noting that coconut oil and sesame oil are resistant to high temperatures.

One last thing: try gentler cooking methods such as steaming or "en papillote". They don't necessarily require you to add fats, and they preserve the vitamins in your vegetables.

TIP #4: Pick the right pans

The other reason why people use fats when frying is more practical. Out of fear that their meat, eggs or pancakes will stick to the pan, they drench them in oil or butter.
By choosing a good-quality pan with a non-stick coating, you can cook without fear of breaking your fried egg or tearing your pancakes!
And if you don't feel that that's enough, put a tiny drop of vegetable oil on some kitchen towel and rub it over the base of your pan to leave a thin film.

TIP #5: Swap cream for tofu

Cream is used to bind lots of dishes, from soups to sauces, and even some cakes.
It's rich in both saturated fat and protein. Saturated fats are one of the "bad" fats and should be avoided. Protein on the other hand is important.
A good alternative to cream and crème fraiche is tofu.

What is tofu? It's a food made from soya that comes in the form of a relatively soft, white block. It's used in numerous healthy sweet and savoury recipes, making them creamy and rich in plant protein without adding any saturated fat.
By stirring in a little tofu, you'll get a really silky cream of vegetable soup!

TIP #6: Stick to just one fatty food per meal

To avoid eating too many calories and slowing down your digestion, remember that fat should be enjoyed in moderation.
You needn't deprive yourself of fat entirely - just choose to only have one fatty food per meal.
For example, replace your burger and chips with a burger accompanied by some vegetables or home-made, oven-baked chips with no oil on them.

TIP #7: Choose the right ready meals

Although they're not the best option, ready meals are practical and can come to the rescue in all sorts of situations.
If you're going to eat ready meals, here are two rules to follow to make the right choices:
choose well-rounded dishes containing protein, cereals and vegetables. The more balanced the dish, the less space there will be for excess fat;
read the label and the nutritional info carefully, and prioritise dishes with more protein than fat. For example, if the ready meal is fish- or meat-based, and protein only accounts for 10% of the nutritional value, don't buy it.

Take a look at our article on processed foods.

TIP #8: Make your own stock cubes

The ones sold in supermarkets are rich in fat and sugar, as well as salt and additives. If you can, make your own.
It's really easy! Boil the vegetables of your choice in a large pan of water with some salt, herbs and seasoning. Then:
either reserve the liquid in an ice-cube tray;
or blend everything (vegetables + liquid), then place in an ice-cube tray. This method will give you a flavoursome vegetable paste.

Pop the ice-cube tray in your freezer. Then in the future, when you need a stock cube, simply take one out! 

TIP #9: Thicken sauces with beans

After cream, the other things we turn to to make sauces thicker and creamier are butter and flour. To give a runny sauce a bit more consistency, blend a handful of white beans (for a light sauce) or kidney or black beans (for a dark sauce). Mix everything together to get a thicker sauce with no unwanted fat, but rich in fibre and protein.

TIP #10: Replace mayonnaise with yoghurt

It's often seen as an essential ingredient in sandwiches, burgers and pre-made salads, yet mayonnaise is rich in saturated fat. But there's a way to get that touch of freshness and texture without eating a whole load of bad fat.
A lighter alternative is Greek yoghurt - ideally goat or sheep, or even soya for a plant-based version that's even lower in fat and rich in protein.
Simply mix your yoghurt with some salt, pepper, herbs and spices of your choice and a squeeze of lemon juice. It also makes for a great dip for vegetable sticks! 

TIP #11: Use apple puree in your cakes

Lots of sweet foods are made with butter. Butter is rich in saturated fats and doesn't cope well with heat (it becomes carcinogenic). It's best to eat butter uncooked.
To lighten your sweet treats and make them healthier, use no-added-sugar apple puree in your recipes. It'll replace not just the butter, but also much of the sugar and even the egg! A highly effective 3-in-1 solution!

As you've seen, totally ditching fat from your diet isn't a great idea because fat is necessary for our health. But you now know how to make the best choices to get the right fat in the right quantity.
Which tip are you most keen to try? 

Fats: 11 easy ways to eat less but better

alexandra

Naturopath & Yoga Teacher - Diet and Sport Consultant

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