Chips and Pies and Sausage Rolls: Cutting down on fats

The evenings are drawing in, a chill is felt in the air on playground duty and suddenly we’re driving to and from school with the headlights on. The good intentions of the first day of September to lunch on salad and to dine on plain chicken or fish with steamed vegetables might becoming under strain as the autumnal rains whip in from the seas.

The most common non-education based conversation in the staffroom is often diet and there is always somebody who is ‘starting tomorrow’, cutting out carbs, avoiding chocolate for a month or reducing their drinking. The change in the season, the reduction in natural daylight and the pressures which inevitably grow as the term gets into full swing often challenge even the most resilient and determined of dieters. A retail development which opened near one of our schools a few years ago included two popular fast food establishments and a well-known purveyor of baked goods. Inevitably it proved a popular lunchtime attraction: hence the title of this piece.

chips

We all have our favourite comfort foods: stews, crisps, ‘Hobnobs’ or even a very guilty kebab. There are times when such treats are most welcome. As with all food decisions however, the key word is balance.

Teachers could very easily have a quite sedentary lifestyle. Consider your classroom environment: Reception teachers will be on the move much of the time but if you are in secondary do you base yourself at the front of the class or keep mobile? Do your evenings or weekends allow you to walk the dog, ride your bicycle or dig the garden? Or do you spend your time catching up on work then flopping down on the sofa in front of the television? Some teachers, or so it is rumoured, spend their ‘down time’ tweeting or blogging.

Lack of activity, stress and the change in the seasons can all contribute to less well informed food habits, cravings, snacking and hence weight gain. You may be one of the lucky ones whose metabolism allows you to burn this off, but the fact is that most of us aren’t this fortunate. A little paunch is one thing, but we also need to consider the impact on our levels of cholesterol and the dangers of trans fats.

Fat is a health issue

Trans fat is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat you can eat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol. A high LDL cholesterol level in combination with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease.

Some meat and dairy products contain small amounts of naturally occurring trans-fat. But most trans-fat is formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. It is used to give longer shelf life to foods. Some restaurants use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their deep fryers, because it doesn’t have to be changed as often as do other oils.

The manufactured form of trans fat, is found in a variety of food products, including: Baked goods- cakes, cookies, pies and sausage rolls include partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in their ingredients; crisps and tortilla chips often contain trans-fat; foods that require deep frying can contain trans-fat from the oil used in the cooking process- doughnuts can be literally soaked in it; frozen pizza; some margarines.

Who you gonna call? Fatbusters!!

There are no foods that really reduce fat. The best way to burn fat is to build lean muscle through exercise.

However a number of foods are suggested by health professionals that can prevent fat build up and in combination with an exercise regime can boost fat reduction.

Some suggestions we have found include:

  • Almonds and other nuts
  • Turkey and other lean meats.
  • Fresh or dried.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Whole grains including brown rice, cereals and quinoa.

 

Other ways we use to reduce our fat intake at Healthy Teacher Toolkit HQ include:

 

  • Considering polyunsaturated fat: nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens.
  • Swapping to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk.
  • Removing the skin from chicken pieces before cooking.
  • Changing our oils to rapeseed or olive oils and using a spray to reduce use.
  • Reducing our free radicals, often found in fried foods, by choosing foods high in vitamins A, C, E, and the minerals zinc, selenium, manganese.
  • Tomatoes are high in lypocene. In fact eating a range of colours each day means we consume more antioxidants. This does not mean consuming a well-known crispy sugar frosted chocolate bean.
  • Green tea and matcha tea is also believed to have the effect of reducing free radicals.
Green tea matcha in a cup on the brown mat

Green tea matcha in a white cup on the brown mat close-up

There is no real option though to reducing body fat other than adjusting our diet and by sufficient exercise. We hope some of this advice is useful and we welcome any useful comments for food groups and exercise that you have found helpful.

 

Just as a little test, here is a wordsearch featuring fifteen words included in today’s blog.

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