Skip to content

Fats, oils and spreads


We all need some fats in our diet to stay healthy. They provide energy and some vitamins. Eating too much or the wrong types of fat can be unhealthy. 

Fats can be broken down into three main groups:

  • Saturated fats
  • Unsaturated fats, and
  • Trans fats.

Eating too much saturated and trans fat puts us at risk of heart disease, so use as little as possible. Unsaturated fats are best for heart health, so choose these more often. Remember it is best to use fats in very small amounts, even unsaturated fat.

How much is a portion?

  • 1 portion pack of reduced-fat or light spread for 2 slices of bread
  • 1 teaspoon of rapeseed, olive, canola, sunflower or corn oil per person when cooking

Unsaturated fats - choose these more often

  • Oily fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocados
  • Vegetable oils (olive, sunflower, rapeseed)
  • Vegetable oil spreads (instead of butter)

Saturated and trans fats - choose these less often

  • Tropical oils such as coconut and palm oil
  • Cakes
  • Biscuits
  • Chocolate
  • Butter or lard
  • Cream or creme fraiche
  • Sausages and other processed meats
  • Meat pies
  • Fast food
  • Hard cheese

Tips for cutting down on fat

  • Choose lower fat spreads instead of butter
  • Use vegetable oil instead of animal fats when cooking
  • Go for lean cuts of meat, and cut off any fat you can see on your meat before you cook it
  • Eat fewer processed meats such as sausages and bacon
  • Choose more plant and fish-based fats than animal-based fats
  • Eat two portions of fish each week, including one oily fish
  • Grill, bake, steam and microwave foods instead of frying or roasting them
  • Eat less fatty and deep-fried foods
  • Fill up on low fat foods such as fruit and vegetables
  • Downsize your fatty snack foods, like chocolate, cakes and crisps. Choose treat-sized versions instead
  • Try sharing your dessert with a friend
  • Go for low-fat dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt
  • Use stronger-tasting cheeses so that less can be used to get the same taste
  • Compare labels on pre-packed foods and go for the brands that are lower in fat
  • Go for tomato-based sauces instead of cream or cheese-based sauces
  • Try natural yoghurt or fromage frais instead of cream

Eating too much fat – whether good or bad - can cause weight gain. So be sure to keep fats and oils to small amounts in your diet, and add just small amounts during cooking.
 


Related pages


Safefood Logo

Sign up for our latest healthy eating and recipe updates.

Safefood logo

The site content is redirecting to the NI version.

Confirm