15 healthy choices to reduce fat and sugar
Too much fat and sugar in your diet is bad news, adding unnecessary calories that lead to weight gain and, ultimately, overweight, obesity and all its associated medical conditions.
Make the right choices and keep your weight in check:
1. Choose fruit instead of sugar and sweets
While the occasional sweet treat certainly has its time and place, sucrose (table sugar) quickly adds a lot of empty calories to your diet. When you’re craving something sweet, rather opt for fresh or dried fruit.
Although fruit also contain sugar in the form of fructose, it adds fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to your diet, so it’s a much better option than sweets. Aim for two to three portions of fruit per day.
2. Choose lean meat and fish instead of red meat
Red meat has a high cholesterol and saturated fat content – bad news if you’re concerned about the health of your heart and your waistline.
Go for lean meat (venison or lean beef, for instance), fish, poultry (with the skin removed) and pork instead. Cut all visible fat off meat and don't add any extra fat or oil to meat when you cook it. Avoid any type of meat that has visible fat, like sausages or salami.
3. Steer clear of fast foods
Fast foods (think hamburgers, fries, milkshakes, pizzas) have too much of everything: salt, fats, empty calories and sugar.
If you can’t stay away from fast foods, check the ingredients very carefully to make smarter choices and try to keep your intake to a minimum. Fast foods have little nutritional value, and it’s best to stock up on real, wholesome foods.
4. Go easy on the bread
Though it may be obvious that sweetened breads contain sugar, many kinds of bread (both white and whole-wheat) also contain sugar. In fact, some breads contain as much as a teaspoon of sugar per slice.
Check the labels before buying bread from a supermarket and ask your local baker about healthier bread options. Also consider baking your own bread, and cut the sugar.
5. Avoid pies and pastries
This may be bad news for pie addicts, but pies are loaded with all the wrong kinds of fat. Plus, they often contain too much salt and are simply loaded with calories.
Cut pies and pastries like croissants from your diet if you want to lose weight and boost your heart health, and replace these foods with wholegrain or rye bread.
6. Steer clear of deep-fried delicacies
Deep-frying is never a good way of cooking. It adds a lot of unnecessary fat to a meal and the high temperatures also release cancer-causing compounds.
Steer clear of deep-fried treats, such as French fries and doughnuts. Always choose baking, grilling or poaching over frying as a cooking method.
7. Choose low-fat dressing instead of mayonnaise
Mayonnaise is very high in fat. Where possible, replace it with low-fat dressing or a drop of soya sauce on salads, and rather use low-fat/fat-free yoghurt in sauces. Simply don't add mayonnaise to sandwiches – rather make them more interesting by adding herbs, black pepper and a slice of tomato.
You’ll also be surprised to find how much sugar, fat and salt some ready-made salad dressings contain. The healthiest option is still to make your own salad dressing by using a small amount of olive or canola oil, fresh lemon juice or Balsamic vinegar, and adding some fresh herbs.
8. Choose milk instead of cream or coffee creamer
Cream adds unnecessary amounts of saturated fat to coffee, and coffee creamer is an absolute no-no, as it's loaded with unhealthy fats. Rather use low-fat or fat-free milk in your coffee or tea.
9. Choose popcorn instead of potato crisps
When you go shopping for snacks, read nutrition labels carefully, as the calorie and fat values vary considerably from product to product.
Old-fashioned popcorn (not the pre-popped varieties) is a healthier option than most forms of crisps – just don't add butter when you pop it. Pretzels also generally contain less fat than potato crisps (but check the label before you buy).
10. Be careful of tomato sauce
Sugar is often added to tomato products to counter their acidity, and tomato sauce is one of the greatest culprits when it comes to hidden sugar. In fact, up to one-third of the content of tomato sauce can be sugar.
Keep in mind that a tablespoon of tomato sauce equals one teaspoon of sugar, so rather eat your French fries without the sauce if you’re concerned about your weight.
11. Always choose plain yoghurt
Yoghurt is a practical, nutritious snack and great at breakfast time. Most of us prefer the flavoured ones but they all contain added sugar – even the low-fat and non-fat versions. Some brands of flavoured yoghurts contain up to 20g (or 5 teaspoons) of sugar per serving.
Rather opt for plain yoghurt with fresh fruit.
12. Keep a check on those breakfast cereals
Have a look at the ingredient list of your favourite breakfast cereals. Most cereals are loaded with sugar to make them more palatable.
Some sweet, flavoured cereals contain up to 34g of sugar per 100g – that’s a whopping four teaspoons of sugar per 50g portion. Add to that the extra sugar that you sprinkle on your cereal, and you’ve got enough sugar to put you on a high all morning long. In addition, breakfast cereals often contain a great amount of fat and salt, which is bad news for your heart and overall health.
Scrutinise those labels, and go for high-fibre, low-sugar, low-fat, low-salt cereals.
13. Steer clear of canned vegetables, fruit and soup
Many brands of canned vegetables and fruit contain hidden sugars that are used during the manufacturing process to increase their shelf life. Have a look at the ingredients list to see whether any sugar has been added and choose a brand with the lowest sugar content. The best option is still to eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
Most canned soups have added sugar to extend their shelf life. In fact, some brands contain several teaspoons of sugar per serving. Canned soups are also notoriously high in salt. Read the labels of canned soups before you put them into your grocery basket or, better yet, cook your own soup at home.
14. Avoid so-called “health” bars
Most so-called “health” bars do contain healthy fibre, seeds, nuts and dried fruits, but many of them are also loaded with sugar, fat and salt. The low-fat health bars are the worst offenders when it comes to sugar, with some of them containing up to 3 teaspoons of sugar per 30g bar.
For a healthy snack, rather eat fresh or dried fruit or a handful of nuts (almonds are a good choice as they have a lower fat content).
15. Be wise with cheese
Most cheeses have quite a high fat content, but cheese is a good source of calcium and protein and should by all means form part of a healthy, balanced diet.
The key is to go for low-fat cheese like ricotta, mozzarella, Camembert and Brie most of the time, and to have it in moderation. The harder cheeses generally have a higher fat content and should be enjoyed less often.
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