Beware of “Fat Free” Foods

20 Jun

Fat-Free Food

We have written about how important it is to read food labels when trying to make healthy choices in the supermarket. One thing you will see often listed on food labels is “fat free”, “low fat” and “reduced fat”.  Now the question is; do these foods fall into the healthier choice category? If you want to know the answer – keep reading!

First of all it’s important to note that food companies are allowed to label foods as “fat free” or “reduced fat” so long as the actual number is lower than a pre-determined number of grams per servicing. So when you see those types of labels you need to understand what they really mean.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency:

“Free of fat food contains less than 0.5 g of fat per serving of stated size and per reference amount.

… Low in fat food contains 3 g or less of fat per serving of stated size and per reference amount.”


Often times we see these labels and automatically think that these products are healthier choices than the full fat ones. Unfortunately that’s not really the case. Think about it, if all the fat is removed from something, a lot of the taste of the product will be removed along with it. So what do food manufacturers do to compensate? They add other ingredients like sugar, flour, thickeners and salt. These ingredients add the flavour back in, while boosting the calorie count at the same time. So sure, maybe that “low fat” salad dressing you have in your cart has less fat than the regular one, but it also probably has more crap in it too and just as many, if not more calories than the regular version.


Fat free may sound like a healthy choice, but the reality is that your body needs fat. And it’s not so much the amount of fat you eat that’s important it’s the type of fat. Remember, there are good fats, and bad fats! When it comes to health you want need to consume good fats. Let’s quickly go over the difference between good fats and bad fats (for more info click here). Good fats are heart healthy such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They can be found in foods such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and fatty fish like tuna and salmon. These types of healthy fats also play a role in your body’s ability to absorb vitamins like A, D, E and K and they help lower bad cholesterol. Consuming good fats will increase your feeling of fullness and supply your body with necessary nutrients – so you definitely want to incorporate good fat into your daily diet.


Bad fats are saturated fats found in animal products like beef, pork, butter and other full fat dairy products. As we talked about in a recent post, trans fats are another bad fat you absolutely want to steer clear of. They are found in hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils that you are often used in crackers, baked products, fast food and processed foods.


So to answer the question I posed at the beginning…no, foods labeled as “fat free”, “reduced fat” or “low fat” are not always a healthier choice. It is important that you don’t make your decision to buy food products solely off these types of advertisements. You need to read the entire food label. Check to see what else has been added to the product to make up for the fat that was taken out. Check to see the calorie count and serving size and compare it against the full fat product. And remember, if you are avoiding processed and packaged foods, and making things like salad dressing from scratch, you wont have to worry about this at all J !



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