There is no doubt that fat carries flavour and it has wonderful qualities for use in cooking but we do need to be sensible about it.
TIPS FROM ‘THE FAT CHAT’ PODCAST
Here is a summary of some of the tips discussed on The Fat Chat – Episode 1 of the Foodcentric podcast with Foodcentric‘s Food Director, Naomi Crisante and nutritionist Melanie Ryan, from Nourishness.
FAT IS FLAVOUR
- Fat adds flavour and texture to food and cooking.
- A knob of butter to finish a sauce adds silkiness.
- Fat helps the caramelisation process when browning meat or when baking.
- Fat gives crispy, light layers to croissants and pastries.
- Fats, like olive oil, give glisten and gloss when drizzled over food.
- Fat is an energy dense food nutrient and consumption needs to be balanced as excess energy is stored as body fat and being overweight can lead to health problems like heart disease.
- Refer to the Australian Dietary Guidelines for great information on fat consumption in relation to your age, weight and lifestyle.
- With low fat products, be sure to check labels for other ingredients as many low fat processed foods compensate with added sugar or salt to make up flavour, so choose wisely and take care not to over-consume low fat products which negates their value.
- Avoid foods that are just adding kilojoules to your diet and little else.
- Be aware that in cooking, some recipes require the full fat ingredient to be successful, like a baked custard that needs full cream milk.
- Choose quality over quantity and eat in moderation. For example, dressing a salad with a little oil, means you are eating vegetables, legumes and/or grains, and it makes those whole foods more interesting, more tasty and even better looking!
- These are general tips, for any dietary concerns please consult your health professional.
KNOW YOUR FATS
- Saturated fats, like animal fats (eg. beef, pork, chicken, duck, dairy fats) and also coconut and palm oil, do taste delicious and have great textural qualities but need to be consumed in moderate amounts to avoid health issues like heart disease.
- Monounsaturated fats – are plant-based vegetable fats (eg. olive oil, nut oils, seeds, avocado) and are regarded as healthier fats, but again don’t over consume.
- Polyunsaturated fats – exist in fish and some seeds and nuts. They are also present in margarine which also contains trans fats (see below).
- Trans-fats – mostly created industrially and used in commercial foods like margarine and processed foods, and are not good for your health. Be sure to check labels.
FAT & THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET
It has been observed over many studies that the traditional Mediterranean diet provides great health benefits for a healthier, longer life.
Some of the key characteristics of the Mediterranean diet are:
- Use of olive oil as the main dietary and cooking fat
- Loads of fresh vegetables and legumes
- Whole foods, not processed foods
- Less meat
- Lots of seafood
- Portion size – more vegetables to protein sources
- Home cooking
- Lifestyle – being active, being social and eating together
WATCH YOUR FATS
- Start with whole foods and raw ingredients that you cook yourself rather than over-processed, packaged or fast food. That way you know exactly what goes into it, and you can ‘choose your fat’.
- Think of fast food as ’emergency food’ for rare occasions rather than a regular fall back meal.
- Choose the full fat version of a favourite food but eat it in small amounts, stop and savour it as a treat, have your moment with it.
- Eat slowly and mindfully, as it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to recognise that your stomach is actually full, and if you eat fast then you are more likely to over-eat.
- Cooking methods are important, keep shallow and deep frying occasional.
- Recognise that some treats, like potatoes cooked in duck fat, for example, are a once in a while indulgence, and enjoy them at the time but don’t overdo it.
- Trim visible fat off meat and chicken.
- Spray or brush oil when cooking.
- Add flavour using seasoning, fresh herbs, toasted seeds, crushed nuts, zest or lemon juice.
- Explore different ingredients and cooking methods to add variety to your food (eg. roasting veggies – how you cut them, spice them or dress them can make such a difference).
- Rather than ‘drizzling’ , think about ‘anointing’ food with oil and make every drop count.
- Lighten cream with yogurt for dolloping or thin mayonnaise with milk for dressings.
- When cooking bacon or pork belly, start with a cold pan, over low heat to render the fat, then cook until crisp and drain well on paper towel.
- When making slow cooked dishes like casseroles, make a day ahead for flavour to develop, refrigerate and then scrape off the fat that has risen to the surface.
- When deep frying, use a good clean monounsaturated oil (eg. extra light olive oil, canola or rice bran), make sure it is hot before adding the food, don’t overload the pan and drain cooked food well on paper towel.
- Keep butter at room temperature so it spreads more thinly and only spread one side of a toastie or a sandwich, only if you really need it!
- Watch your portion sizes, have a little of what you love instead of depriving yourself.
In summary, make the choice of what fat you will have, love it, don’t over-consume it, watch portions and use clever strategies so that a little will go a long way in the context of a whole food diet and enjoy the deliciousness!
LISTEN to the FOODCENTRIC PODCAST – Episode 1 – The Fat Chat here.