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Preventive Maintenance: Reducing Fat Intake Can Result in Healthier Living

Fats - the latest four letter word. Over the past few years we've repeatedly heard how eating a lot of fat is bad for our health.But when you're on the road and don't get to cook your own meals, what ...

Fats – the latest four letter word. Over the past few years we’ve repeatedly heard how eating a lot of fat is bad for our health.

But when you’re on the road and don’t get to cook your own meals, what can you do about it? Here are some simple changes that can really help:

Since a lot of the fat we eat is found in meat, try to cut down to about six ounces of meat per day. Try for at least one meatless meal once a day.

And remember – not all meats are equal.

For less fat, choose fish, chicken or turkey, and lean cuts of pork and beef. (The unmarbled cuts of beef are lowest in fat: eye of round, top round, round tip, tenderloin, sirloin, centre loin and top loin.)

Then, when you get your meal, trim the fat from the edges of your meat.

Think before you order. Take the time to read the menu. If you’re ordering chicken, be sure it’s without the skin.

Grilled, roasted, broiled, baked, stir-fried, stewed, and braised meats are best.

Kabobs are great – they have lots of tasty grilled vegetables along with slivers of tender meats. Forget anything fried.

If you’re packing canned fish sandwiches, use the tuna, sardines and salmon that were packed in water.

If you have canned fish that was packed in oil, rinse it in hot water and let it drain. This will get rid of quite a bit of the fat.

Pay attention to the fat content in the dairy products you choose. If you drink homogenized milk – switch to two per cent.

After a while, try one per cent, then skim.

Look for low fat cheeses, such as ricotta and mozzarella. Yogourt and even sour cream have non fat varieties.

If you like cream in your coffee try evaporated milk – it tastes as rich, but has less fat. Trade ice cream for non fat frozen yogourt, sherbet or ice milk.

Eat your vegetables without butter or sauces. You can get butter-flavoured granules to sprinkle on your veggies instead of butter. Try to eat at least two vegetables (and a salad) at each meal. Replace oily chips and cheesies with crunchy fresh vegetables.

When your order a salad, ask for your salad dressing on the side – then you can choose the amount you use.

As well, forget the regular salad dressings – they’re loaded with fat – and use low fat dressing, herbs, lemon juice and spices instead.

If you can’t choose a low fat variety, just dilute the regular salad dressing with a bit of water before you add it to your salad (less fat per tablespoon).

If you’re eating a slice of bread, spread on a little fruit butter or jelly instead of butter.

If you just MUST have butter, whipped butter has half the fat of regular butter and tastes just as good.

To liven up your lunch box sandwiches – instead of regular mayo, use spicy mustard, non fat salad dressing, lemon juice, flavoured vinegar, salsa, non fat mayo or non fat salad dressing.

Lots of grain products are low in fat…check the labels when you can.

For example, instead of a croissant, choose a bagel (but don’t load it down with butter and cream cheese).

All the fats I’ve talked about so far are “visible fats” – fats you can easily see.

But be wary of foods with “invisible” fats. These following foods contain a high percentage of “invisible” fats: nuts, cheese, avocados, and olives.

Steer clear of fried foods whenever possible: potato chips, french fries, fried wontons and fried fish.

Some baked goods are also high in fats: pie crusts, pasties, crackers, biscuits, cornbread, doughnuts, sweet rolls, cookies and cakes.

Even chocolate bars are full of fat.

In most chocolate bars, the majority of calories comes from fat and not sugar.

Even cream of mushroom soup (made with water) gets about 66 per cent of its calories from fat!

The salad bar is a mine-field of fats. Potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad and marinated bean salad are all mixed with oil-based dressings.

So, keep these “invisible fats” in mind when you make your choices.

In trying to reduce your fat intake, I can’t over-stress the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

They contain no fat.

And they fill you up with vitamins and minerals (not to mention fibre and water).

Choose them whenever possible. But, when you just have to have something that you know is a little higher in fat, look for a low fat version or cut some other fatty food out of your diet for the day.

Remember, for good health, some fat is necessary.

But, as always, moderation is the key.

– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at

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