‘Home cooked’ – the expression carries with it a reassuring tag of healthiness and goodness doesn’t it ?
We’ve all gotten used to the warnings about fast food and take out food being loaded with high levels of saturated fat and LDL cholesterol that is clogging up our arteries, and giving us more heart attacks and strokes.
However, cooking your own food using some traditional recipes may actually be as bad, or worse for your health and heart health, unless you look carefully at the quantity and type of all the ingredients.
What are the recommended daily fat intakes ?
The UK guidelines for daily fat intake are 70 grams for women and 95 grams for men. However, the unhealthy ‘bad’ type of fat – saturated fat – allowances are only 20 grams per day for women, and 30 grams for men.
Also it is recommended that your main meal of the day should provide only about a third of your total daily allowance of saturated fat. This equates to just over 6 grams for women and 10 grams for men.
You may be surprised to learn that many healthy-sounding home cooked recipes contain worryingly high levels of saturated fat if made as directed in the recipe books, and in most cases these amounts are not displayed in the recipe as is required by food manufacturing companies on the packaging of all processed foods.
Large portions just make the problem worse
Most people are surprised when presented with the evidence of their high daily fat consumption. It seems that we all think we are eating less fat than we actually are. The problem of the amount of fat expressed as a percentage of the weight of the ingredients is that if you eat larger portions you eat more fat !!
Meal portions have been steadily increasing in size since the 1950’s when food began to become less scarce following the shortages encountered during world war 2. Now we are used to expressions such as ‘go large’,’grab bag’ and ‘big eat’, ‘jumbo burger’ or ‘whopper’. This drives us to psychologically crave for more and more quantity of food with each meal that we eat.
How much saturated fat does the average ‘healthy family’ consume ?
We looked at two typical families in the UK, with Mum, Dad and two or three children. The Mum’s were committed to healthy eating and shopped for fresh ingredients which they used in their home cooking recipes to make meals such as beef pie, fried chicken, Chilli, pizza and fish pie. When we analysed their average daily consumption of saturated fat (over a typical week) family 1 ate 16.7 grams of saturated fat per person per day. This is just for the one main meal and does not include any other meals. Family two were slightly healthier with 11.4 grams.
When presented with the evidence both families were shocked and surprised as they believed they were preparing healthy, fresh, home cooked meals which would positively benefit their family’s diet and health.
What you can do to make your home cooked meals more heart friendly ?
- First know what quantities of fat your food will contain – always check the labels
- Limit your portion sizes – especially red meat – try having a 6 ounce steak instead of an 8 or 10 ounce one
- Substitute turkey mince for beef mince when cooking chilli or lasagne
- Remove unnecessary fat from food during preparation. If you take a look at our recipe for heart healthy chilli con carne, or lamb jalfrezi for example, you can see how we remove most of the excess fat from the meat prior to cooking the recipe
- If you’re buying minced beef – look for packages that have fewer white visible specks of fat
- If you need to use additional fat in a recipe, try using duck fat, as this has less saturated fat than butter or lard
If you can substitute hard fat. try using unsaturated cooking oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil or rapeseed oil
- Avoid pastry as it is high in saturated fat
- Substitute milk for cream in your recipes, and semi-skimmed milk for normal full cream milk where possible