Fats and Sugar-everything in moderation!
A lack of physical activity isn’t the only reason that 1 in 4 British adults are obese. Consuming high amounts of energy in the diet, particularly from foods high in fat and sugar can lead to an excess amount of fat being stored in the body, particularly if we are not doing much physical activity to help burn it off. We have put together some useful information on fat and sugar in the diet as well as some helpful tips to help you cut down on energy dense foods which can contribute to weight gain.
The recommended amount of calories we should be consuming per day is 2,500 on average for a physically active male and 2,000 on average for a physically active female. Those who are less active and live very sedentary lifestyles would need to consume fewer calories in order to prevent too much fat being stored in the body. Although the daily recommendations for calorie intake may seem high, it can be very easy to exceed your calorie intake over the course of the day, particularly if we consume a lot of energy dense foods – those typically high in fat and sugar.
You may have noticed in the media recently that there is a lot of coverage on how we are eating too much sugar, and this is very true. Sugar is a carbohydrate often found naturally in many foods. However, sugar is often added to many foods such as cakes, biscuits and many soft drinks. Added sugars should not make up more than 5% of the energy you get from the diet; this is the equivalent of about 30grams of added sugar per day for an adult and 19 grams for a child. Food labels can often be difficult to interpret, particularly as the added sugar in foods can often be listed under other names in the list of ingredients. Sugar added to food may also be called:
- Corn syrup
- Hydrolysed Starch
Here are our top tips on how to reduce your sugar intake from the diet to help maintain a healthy weight:
- Pay close attention to food labels. You may be surprised to know that sugar is often hidden in many foods such as savoury sauces.
- Instead of drinking soft beverages containing high amounts of sugar, swap for the diet options instead. Plain water with a dash of lemon can also be a much healthier option.
- If you add sugar into your tea and coffee, gradually reduce the amount you add until you are able to cut it out altogether.
- Enjoy treats in moderation. Although often very tempting, foods high in sugar such as sweet biscuits, cakes and other desserts should only be enjoyed once in a while and should not be included in the diet on a daily basis.
Consuming a small amount of fat is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. As we have mentioned before the consumption of some fats in particular can actually be beneficial to our health. However, all fats are equally high in energy and this should be particularly noted where obesity is concerned. A physically active woman consuming 2,000 calories per day should consume no more than 70 grams of total fat per day and no more than a third of our total fat intake should come from saturated fat- the fat which is more likely to contribute to the development of heart disease.
So how can I tell if a particular food is high in fat?
Again, knowing how much of something there is in some foods can be difficult to interpret. The Department of Health has produced guidelines to help consumers identify whether a particular food is high or low in fat. These guidelines are as follows:
High fat foods: contain more than 17.5g per 100g
Low fat foods: contain 3g or less of fat per 100g
It’s advisable to pay close attention to the guidelines above particularly when buying foods that may be ‘fat reduced’ or ‘lighter options’. Some lighter varieties of typical high fat foods such as mayonnaise are still high in fat and should be consumed in moderation. Removing the fat out of some foods can also mean that more of other ingredients are added to improve flavour. For example, many fat reduced flavoured yogurts contain more sugar than the full fat option, so do pay close attention to food labels and always consider fat and sugar.
The NHS Choices Website offers more great tips on healthy eating in combating obesity.