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Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar

Most of us should eat less of foods from this group!

These foods can be eaten in small amounts as part of a healthy, varied diet. Foods such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, chocolate, crisps, friedfoods and non-diet fizzy drinks should be considered as treats and only eaten occasionally.

 

  • For oils, spreads, low-fat spreads and butters, use sparingly, especially if eaten every day. Some types are particularly high in saturated fat, for example butter, coconut milk/cream and palm oil.
  • Limit the amount of fat, oil and cream you add to foods because this can add a lot of extra calories.

What counts?

The following foods are high in fat:

  • Margarine, butter and other spreading fats including reduced fat spreads (although these contain less fat and calories they should still only be used in small amounts)
  • Cooking oils and oil-based salad dressings
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cream
  • Fried foods including fried chips
  • Chocolate, some crisps and biscuits (check the nutrition labels)
  • Pastries, cakes, puddings and ice-cream

The following foods are high in sugar:

  • Soft drinks (not diet drinks)
  • Sweets
  • Jam
  • Sugar, honey
  • Cakes, puddings, biscuits, pastries and ice-cream.

Fats and Oils

We need a small amount of fat in our diets to provide essential fatty acids (those the body cannot make itself) and to help us absorb the fatsoluble vitamins A, D, E and K. There are two types of essential fats, which must be supplied by the diet in small amounts: omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish but also present in smaller amounts in food such as walnuts, eggs, and in rapeseed and soya oil and spreads made from them) and omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn and soya oil, and spreads made from these). Although we need some fat, foods containing a lot of fat will be high in calories, making it easy to consume more calories than you need.

The type of fat in the diet is important, as well as the amount. In the UK we need to reduce our intake of saturated fat that is found in particular in butter, cream, coconut cream, palm oil, some processed and fatty cuts of meat, cakes and pastries. Saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase risk of heart disease and stroke, so it is important not to eat too much. On average, a woman should eat no more than 20 g per day and a man no more than 30 g each day. For more information on saturated fat and heart disease, click here.

The saturated fat pledge, part of the Department of Health’s Public Health Responsibility Deal, aims to reduce the population average saturated fat intake from 12.7% to 11% of calorie intake. The aim is to achieve this through product/menu reformulation, reviewing portion sizes, and educating and encouraging consumers to choose healthier options. The Responsibility Deal is a voluntary scheme involving many food and drink manufacturers, retailers, caterers and other organisations.

Tips to cut down on fat and saturated fat:

  • Choose spreads and oils high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids such as rapeseed, olive, sunflower, soybean, safflower or flaxseed oil.
  • If you use spreads, select ones that are lower/reduced fat for everyday use.
  • Experiment with spray oils as you need much less.
  • Go for fruit scones, fruit loaf or hot cross buns instead of croissants, pastries or cakes.
  • Instead of having fried foods opt for oven baked versions, for example, oven chips or wedges instead of fried chips and rice cakes or baked snacks instead of fried crisps.
  • Be aware of portion sizes and keep these small for high-fat or high-sugar treats.

Foods high in sugar

On average, children and adults in the UK eat too much added sugar, found in sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and non-diet fizzy drinks, alcoholic drinks and juice drinks.

Sugar adds flavour and sweetness to foods, but frequent consumption of sugar-containing foods and drinks is associated with an increased risk of tooth decay especially in those with poor dental hygiene.

 

Tips to cut down on sugar

  • If you like fizzy drinks, why not try diluting fruit juice with sparkling water and choosing diet versions where possible.
  • If you take sugar in hot drinks or add sugar to your breakfast cereal, gradually reduce the amount until you can cut it out altogether.
  • Rather than spreading jam, marmalade or honey on your toast, try a scrape of low-fat spread or sliced banana instead.
  • Instead of cakes, chocolate, biscuits and desserts opt for some fruit. Why not try pineapple, bananas or grapes as these have a naturally sweet taste.
  • Check food labels to help you select foods with less added sugar.
  • Choose tins of fruit in juice rather than syrup.
  • Select breakfast cereals which are not coated in sugar or honey.

BNF have developed a resource that can be downloaded, see attachment below.

Last reviewed February 2014. Next review due February 2017.

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