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Few of us have time to check the contents of everything we eat, but knowing the types of foods that are high in sugars and fats can reduce your energy intake and help you eat more healthily.
Sugars are a good source of energy and occur naturally in foods including fruit and milk. However, many foods such as fizzy drinks, sweets, biscuits, cakes, pastries and puddings have added sugars. Cutting down on foods with added sugars can help with weight loss.
Fats also provide us with energy, but are a concentrated source of energy and are therefore high in calories. Too many fats in your diet are unhealthy and can lead to weight gain.
There are two types of fats contained in foods - saturated and unsaturated. Try to cut down on all foods that contain fats and particularly those containing saturated fat, such as fatty cuts of meat, sausages, pies, butter, ghee, cheese, cakes and biscuits. Instead, choose foods that contain unsaturated fats, such as vegetable-based cooking oils and spreads, but remember that these are still a high-energy food.
Too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, which can cause heart disease and strokes. Try to eat no more than 6g of salt a day (that’s about a teaspoonful). Many processed foods and ready meals contain high levels of salt, so always check the label.
Many food manufacturers and supermarkets now use food traffic light labelling on their products. The traffic light colours represent the number of grams of fat, saturated fat, sugar or salt per 100g (3½oz) of the product.
Try to eat more foods with amber and green labels and fewer with red. The table below can be used to check products that don’t use traffic light labelling.
Table showing different levels of sugars, fats, saturates and salts
View a large version of this chart|
Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals and fibre and are low in fat. Aim to eat at least five portions a day. One portion is about 80g (3oz).
To increase your daily intake of fruit and vegetables, you could try the following:
Try to avoid adding butter, rich sauces or dressings to vegetables and salads as this will increase the energy you take in. Frozen vegetables and tinned fruit in juice (not syrup) are just as nutritious as fresh ones and can be less expensive.
Foods like bread, cereal, rice, and pasta are starchy foods. Wholegrain varieties are particularly good if you’re trying to lose weight as they make you feel fuller. Starchy foods should make up about one-third of what we eat in a day. Potatoes are also included in this food type. Boiled or baked potatoes are healthier than deep fried chips. If you want to eat chips, try the low-fat oven varieties.
Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet can also help you feel fuller more quickly. Oats, peas, beans, lentils, grains and seeds are all good sources of fibre.
Fish is a good source of vitamins and minerals and is low in saturated fat. Aim to have two portions of fish a week if you can - try white fish such as haddock, plaice and cod. Other healthy fish includes salmon, mackerel, trout and herring. Grilling, steaming, poaching and baking fish is healthier than frying it. Frozen fish can be cheaper than fresh, but avoid high-fat fish-based processed meals. Tinned fish like tuna, sardines and pilchards are also low in saturated fat. Choose tinned fish in spring water or tomato sauce rather than oil.
Although meat is high in protein and minerals, it can also be high in fat. Try to reduce your meat portions and have more vegetables and starchy foods instead. Buy the leanest cuts of meat you can, and grill or roast meat rather than frying it.
Skinned turkey or chicken is a healthy alternative to red meat and is low in fat. Try to cut down on processed meats, such as sausages, beef burgers, pies and sausage rolls, which are often high in saturated fat.
Dairy-based products are good sources of protein, vitamins and calcium, but can also be high in fat. Try semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low-fat spreads and yoghurt. Only use cream or butter in small amounts.
Content last reviewed: 1 April 2011
Next planned review: 2013
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