Fat is a dense macronutrient that contains more calories than proteins and carbohydrates. Therefore, lowering fat is considered as an effective option for reducing weight as it aims at reducing a considerable amount of calories. Excess fat, particularly saturated and trans-fat can lead to high cholesterol level, diarrhea, fatty liver and nutrient malabsorption.
Nevertheless, not all fat is bad for health. Some fat is required by the body for hormone regulation and vitamin absorption and also contributes to the appearance of healthy skin and hair. In other words, all types of fat do not have adverse health effects and in order to understand low fat diet, it is necessary to know about the two kinds of fats.
1. Saturated Fats:
These are basically the harder fats which are found in meat, lard and dairy products like butter, full cream milk etc. Apart from these, there are trans-fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils) which come from vegetables.
These fats are found in processed food and commercially made cakes, biscuits and pastries. We should limit our intake of saturated fats and trans fats as they increase weight and raise cholesterol level.
2. Unsaturated Fats:
Unsaturated fats are basically found in fruits, vegetables and nuts. These include monounsaturated fats (MUFA) found in olives and rapeseed oils, polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats found in sunflower and corn oils and omega -3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel etc.
These are considered as good fats as they do not necessarily raise the cholesterol level. Omega 3 fatty acids are considered good for heart and have certain other health benefits.
Low Fat Diet:
A low fat diet, as the name implies, is a dietary pattern that limits the fat intake at about 1/3 of the total daily calories consumed. It consists of little fat, particularly saturated fats and cholesterol which lead to increased blood cholesterol levels and heart attack. This type of diet focuses on foods that contain whole grains, fruits and vegetables. It is directed towards weight loss and treatment of certain diseases by offering 20 to 30 percent of total daily calories from fat.
Plenty of vegetables and proteins in a typical low fat diet supply the body with energy but very little fats. However, fats should not be eliminated entirely as some dietary fat is needed for good health, supplying energy and fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K. Studies have revealed that the right kinds of fats can actually help in losing weight. Hence, the prime focus of a low fat diet is on limiting the unhealthy fats and consumption of right amounts of fats.
What to Eat in a Low Fat Diet?
In order to lose weight effectively, you need to consume lesser calories in a day than you have been consuming coupled with regular exercise. It is generally believed that more calories are contained in foods that are high in fat. However, there are other foods as well, such as sweets and sugar which do not contain fat but are high in calories. Thus, while going on a low fat diet, one has to keep an eye on sweet and sugary foods in addition to fatty foods.
Fat loss diets generally emphasize the consumption of low fat foods like grains, fruits and vegetables. The fat content in the food can also be controlled by the manner of cooking. Foods should be baked, steamed, broiled or grilled without using butter or oil.
- Unlimited Fruits, Vegetables and Legumes:
Plenty of fruits and legumes including beans and lentils should be eaten on a fat-free diet as they are naturally low in fat. In addition to fewer calories, they are also a rich source of fibre, thus providing satiety and fullness.
- Careful Consumption of Grains, Meats, Eggs and Dairy:
Whole grains should be consumed wisely in order to balance the meals with vegetables, fruits and legumes. Skim and low-fat dairy products should be substituted for full fat dairy. Egg whites should be chosen instead of whole eggs and lean meats such as chicken, turkey and fish is preferable over beef, pork and processed meats. All visible fat and skin should be removed when preparing meat. It is recommended to bake or broil meat instead of pan frying
- Foods to be Avoided:
Foods like nuts, oils, seeds, avocados, butter, full fat dairy, mayonnaise, margarine, processed meats and cuts of meat like skirt steak, porterhouse, ribs and the brisket are high in fat and therefore, should be avoided. However, fish oil and olive oil can be used in moderation. Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids and olive oil has a high content of monounsaturated fats.
Example of a diet sheet:
|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
High-fibre breakfast cereals
Wholegrain rice and pasta
|White flour and bread
Low-fibre breakfast cereals
White rice and pasta
Plain or fruit scones
Most cakes and biscuits
|Fruit, veg and nuts||All fruits and vegetables
Dried beans and lentils
Fried or roast potatoes
Fried, creamed, buttered or cheesed vegetables
Crisps and potato snacks
|Fish||Fresh salmons, herring, mackerels, tuna, sardines etc, white fish||Shellfish||Fish roe
|Meat||Lean meats without skin, such as chicken and other poultry||Lean ham, beef, pork, and lamb
Liver and kidney
|Visible fat on meat
|Eggs, dairy foods||Skimmed or semi-skimmed milk
Cottage or curd cheese
Up to 3 egg yolks a week
Most hard cheeses
|Fats and spreads||None||Low-fat spreads
Margarine high in polyunsaturates
Corn oil, sunflower oil and olive oil
Dripping and lard
Margarine not high in polyunsaturates
|Drinks and soups||Tea and coffee
Health experts have recommended complete elimination of trans-fat in a typical low fat diet. It is formed during a process called hydrogenation and converts a relatively healthy unsaturated liquid fat like corn oil into a solid one. It is generally contained in processed food to give it a longer shelf life.The fats act like saturated fats and can cause heart disease.
One way to attempt a low fat diet can be through the GM diet plan. or you can try out the sample mentioned below.
SAMPLE LOW FAT DIET MENU FOR A DAY:
|Breakfast||A hard broiled egg, leafy greens, low fat yoghurt, skimmed milk.|
|Lunch||Skinless chicken and turkey breast, steamed shrimp, beans and tofu for salad,green vegetables with a teaspoon of olive oil.|
|Dinner||Lean ground beef, steamed fish, brown rice, baked sweet potatoes and a slice of avocados as garnish.|
|Dessert||Non-fat Greek yoghurt with honey and bananas, fresh fruit or gelatin.|
|Snack||Air popped popcorn, cut up vegetables with hummus, saltine or toast with jelly.|
Rules of Low Fat Diet:
Realistic goals should be set while following a low fat diet so that it becomes a positive experience. It should aim at maintaining a sustainable weight loss, which would mean losing not more than one or two pounds in a week. By following the given rules, one can reap beneficial results from this diet.
- Avoid Leftover Food:
Leftover foods, particularly seasonal candies should be avoided. Only those foods should be eaten or prepared which you have in hand.
- Eat Wholesome and Healthy ingredients:
Low-fat or fat-free products should be substituted with full fat products. Include whole grain pastas, breads and grains, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. At least 9 servings of these should be eaten in a day.
- Monitor Portions or Serving Sizes:
Apart from the kind of food to be eaten, portion sizes should always be taken care of. Food labels should be properly examined in order to understand what exactly constitutes a serving size. You should be aware that a food package usually contains more than one serving.
- Do not Skip Breakfast:
A good breakfast comprising of whole-grain wheat cereal with free fat or low- fat milk and yoghurt is a healthy option to keep your blood sugar levels stable and sustain you until lunchtime.
- Drink Plenty of Water:
Water facilitates proper digestion and also keeps you full for longer. Therefore, it is advisable to keep a bottle of water by your side and sip it frequently.
- Have at least one vegetarian meal each week:
Vegetables are low in calories and form an essential component of a low fat diet. Hence, at least one meal should be replaced with a vegetarian dish each week such as pasta with roasted vegetables or three-bean chilli.
- Eat Fish at least once or twice a week:
Fish should also form part of the diet as fish are naturally low in fat and fish such as salmon contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Have Regular Exercise:
The effectiveness of the diet can be greatly enhanced by supplementing it with regular exercise as it enables you to burn more calories. Exercise does not necessarily mean working out in a gym. Even a brisk 30- minute walk can be considered sufficient.
- Eat Healthy Snacks:
Nutritious snacks such as fruits, low fat yoghurt, air-popped popcorn, wholegrain crackers or raw veggies should be consumed instead of high calorie sweets or sugary foods.
Effectiveness of Low Fat Diet:
Keeping a watch on the amount of fat consumed is important as a diet high in fat can lead to weight gain. However, a low fat diet is not just about restricting the intake of fat. It should place a bigger focus on cutting calories which are contained even in fat-free or trans-fat free or low fat foods and get stored in the body as fat. This mostly happens in the case of packaged food where manufacturers remove fat but add carbohydrates in the form of sugar to compensate for the lack of taste and texture. Thus, many fat free products contain significant calories in the form of refined carbohydrates which cause you to gain weight rather than lose it. A low fat diet should, therefore, encourage a healthy lifestyle by monitoring the caloric intake as well as incorporating regular exercise.