How can I eat less fat?

 

Find out how much fat is in different foods, and how you can begin to eat a very low fat diet.

Keep a food diary

  • Before you start your new way of eating, it’s a great idea to keep a food diary. It helps you to see exactly what foods you are eating, how much fat is in them, and how this is related to any symptoms you might have.
  • Simply make a note of the foods you eat and the grams of fat they contain, and add up the total at the end of the day.
  • Use the HEART UK food diary to help you. Print it out or use it as a guide for keeping your own diary. 
  • You can go a step further and write down the times of day when you ate, your moods and any symptoms throughout the day. This helps you spot if certain foods bring on symptoms, and if there’s anything that affects what foods you choose. If you notice you go for fattier foods if you’re tired or upset for example, you can then develop strategies to help you avoid this.
  • Review your diary with the dietitian every time you visit.
  • Keep your diary going every day when you first change your diet. Once you are confident in your new way of eating, you don’t need to keep a diary every day (although it can be useful) but you can write one from time to time to help you stay on track.

Check the label

You can see how much fat is in a food product by checking the label.

  • Look for the total fat content. You’ll find the labels on the front or back of the packet. They show the amount of total fat and saturated fats in the product. It’s the total fat that’s most important.
  • The main thing is to know the total fat in the amount you actually eat. The fat will be written in grams per 100g, and sometimes per portion as well. If it's per 100g, you'll need to work out how much fat is in the amount you eat. 
  • Look for traffic lights. Sometimes labels are colour-coded with red, amber and green. Go for green for fat, but still add up the total throughout the day.
  • Keep checking the labels. Product recipes change from time to time so keep an eye on them.
  • Not all labels state the fat content. If that’s the case, or there’s no label at all, it’s best to avoid the product. Some foods are surprisingly high in fat so it’s not worth the risk.

What do 'high', 'medium' and 'low fat' mean? 

High fat 

Avoid these foods.

  • Any drink with more than 8.75g fat per 100ml.
  • Any food with more than 17.5g fat per 100g.

High fat foods include oil, butter, ghee, lard, suet, goose fat, coconut oil and hard margarine. All spreads and cooking fats are high in fat so you will need to avoid these.

Medium fat 

Avoid these or eat them only in small amounts, and check that they are within your daily fat allowance.

  • Any food with more than 3g and less than 17.5g fat per 100g.
  • Any drink with more than 1.5g and less than 8.75g fat per 100ml.

Low fat

Eat these alongside fat-free foods, within your daily fat allowance. 

  • Any food with less than 3g fat per 100g.
  • Any drink with less than 1.5g fat per 100ml.

Eat these alongside other fat free foods within your daily fat allowance. 

Fat free 

These are generally safe to eat.

  • Any food with less than 0.5g per 100g.
  • Any drink with less than 0.5g per 100ml.

Do add up the fat content of all foods in your fat tracker, even if the label says they're low fat or fat-free.

See some low and high fat foods at a glance

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Tips for cooking without fats and oils

  • Spreads labelled light, lite or low fat have the lowest fat content, but they are still high in fat.
  • Invest in some cooking equipment. A good non-stick frying pan for fat-free stir fries’and a steamer will be very useful.
  • Use a cooking method that doesn’t need fat such as poaching, steaming, microwaving, grilling, boiling or casseroling.   

How can I make my food taste good?  

It’s well known that fats add flavour to food. To add flavor without the fat, use lots of herbs, spices and flavourings like soy sauce and lemon juice in your cooking. Check out our very low fat recipes for some inspiration.   

Watch out for foods that are high in sugar

Some foods can seem healthy but are actually high in sugar or refined carbohydrates. Try to avoid these:

  • Sugary drinks – some drinks are low in fat but high in sugar  including fruit juices, soft drinks and alcohol.
  • Honey and Agave – like sugar, these also raise your triglycerides.
  • White bread, white pasta and white rice.

Using MCT oil

MCT oil is a type of oil which you can use instead of other cooking fats and oils. It’s broken down in a different way in the body so it doesn’t raise your triglycerides. It’s available on prescription in some areas.

Speak to your doctor or dietitian about using MCT oil and whether it’s suitable for you. Make sure you only use medical grade MCT oil as some products online are not safe if you have FCS. 

Using MCT oil has some pros and cons:

Pros

  • It can help you take on enough energy, which can be tricky on a very low fat diet. This is especially important for children who need enough energy while they’re growing.
  • It gives you an option for cooking with oil.

Cons

  • It’s hard to cook with because it burns easily.
  • Some people find it has an unpleasant aftertaste.

What else do I need to know? 

Focus on what you can eat

Focus on the things you can enjoy rather than the things you can't. Use the pages throughout this section for ideas, including these very low fat recipes

Make sure you get enough protein

Try to have protein-rich foods at each meal and snack. Go for fat-free or low-fat options.

Drink enough water

Our bodies are 70% water, and we need enough fluids just to function. Staying hydrated is also really important for your pancreas and for digestion.

Choose foods full of nutrients


Choose nutrient-rich foods to make sure you get the nutrients your body needs. These include vegetables, wholegrains, beans and pulses, fat-free and virtually fat-free dairy foods without added sugar, and lean protein foods such as chicken without the skin, fish (but not oily fish) and shellfish.

Stick with it

It takes a few weeks for new habits to form. So, try to stick with new changes for a few weeks, even if they’re challenging at first, and see how your body feels once it’s had a chance to adapt.