One of the most loved seasons of the year is here once again. As we let the twinkling fairy lights and cheerful Christmas carols relax our mind and ease us into the feel-good mood of Christmas, we start to let our guard down and our fingers gravitate towards the yummy and mostly fattening seasonal treats.
It is a-okay to eat our favorite foods every once in a while – be it fried chicken or char kway teow – during our weight loss journey, but weshould not over do it. So how do we cut down on our fat intake and yet still enjoy the festivities with our family and friends? Before we unveil the eight ways to reduce fat while feasting, let us understand what fat is – specifically what is good fat versus bad fat.
Not all fats are evil
Our body needs some fats from foods to stay healthy. Fat is needed for energy. It also helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins (i.e. vitamins A, D, E, K) and minerals and build cell membranes. However, some fats are better than others. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The not-so-good ones are trans fats and saturated fats.
Trans fat: Trans fat is a by-product of the hydrogenation process, which happens when you add hydrogen to make liquid vegetable oils more solid. Another type of trans fat is found in small amounts in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals such as meat produce and milk. Common festive foods containing trans fat include fried foods (e.g. doughnuts and chicken wings), baked treats like cakes and cookies, pie crusts, and pizza. Eating foods rich in trans fats increase one’s risk of chronic conditions such as heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes.
Saturated fat: Common festive foods with a fair bit of saturated fats include red meat such as the beef patty in burgers and steak, dairy products such as milk and cheese, and many commercially-prepared baked goods. A diet rich in saturated fats also increases harmful low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which increases one’s risk of heart conditions such as heart diseases and stroke.
Eight ways to cut back on bad fats
Tip #1: Eat your turkey wisely.
Turkey is a white meat and when consumed without its skin, makes a healthy lean protein source. But drizzling it with lots of gravy increases the bad fats content. So have less of that gravy, peel off the skin, and you will do just fine. Up the health quotient by having a green salad with your turkey. A diet rich in green vegetables helps lower blood cholesterol levels.
Tip #2: Beware of the stuffing.
The stuffing in dishes such as the Christmas turkey is one of the yummiest but unfortunately, they are one of the most fattening holiday dishes. If you are cooking, make a healthier stuffing by packing it with nuts, dried fruits, carrots, and greens for the extra dose of dietary fibre and vitamins.
Tip #3: Eat a good breakfast.
One way to cut back on bad fats is to reduce your portion sizes of festive treats. It will help if you eat a full and healthy breakfast on the day of the party. This will prevent over-indulging in fat, oily foods during lunch/dinner and snacking of unhealthy food choices while waiting for your meals.
Tip #4: Yes to lean meat, no to skin.
When selecting the food to eat, choose lean meats and remove the skin of poultry.
Tip #5: Fill up with fibre and grains.
Load your plate with healthier food choices like the greens, fruits, and wholegrain foods – all of which lowers cholesterol – first. This will make you less inclined to overeat on fatty, calorie-laden foods on your second round. If you can choose between a wholegrain bread or a buttery one like a croissant, opt for the former.
Tip #6: Cook healthy, eat healthy.
When preparing meals as a host or guest, choose ingredients with lower fats contents such as low-fat or skim milk and low-fat or fat-free yoghurt to lower the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol. Your cooking method is important too. Bake, broil or grill, instead of frying your foods.
Tip #7: Read your label.
When shopping for festive goodies, read the “Nutrition Information Panel” (NIP) on food labels to choose items with healthier fats and less of the unhealthy ones. Read the amount of trans and saturated fats per serving to find out how much of these go into your body after consuming a serving of it. You should also read the column detailing amount of fats per 100g when comparing products across the same product category. Ideally, go for products with less than 0.5g of trans fats. You can also identify trans fats by looking out for the term “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient list.
Tip #8: Careful where you dip.
Avoid creamy dips such as mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and cream. If you really cannot resist, limit yourself to one to two spoons of the dip.
By Jean Tong, Nutritionist, Halley Medical Aesthetics