Low Fat Versus Fat Free

You might think you are doing yourself a favor by choosing fat-free or low-fat items over their whole-fat counterparts; however, your body actually needs some fat. The key is to choose your fats wisely. Aim for healthy fats, which come from vegetables and nuts, and avoid those that come from meat and dairy products. If you choose a low-fat or fat-free item, remember that this doesn't mean it is also free of calories.


Is There a Difference?

If you are trying to shed some extra pounds, you may be counting calories and watching what you eat. But trying to figure out what to eat to lose that weight can be daunting. Walking down the aisles of the grocery store, you may run across items that are "fat free," "low fat," "light," and "reduced fat." So many choices! But is there really a difference?
To answer this question -- yes, there is a difference. So let's look at what these differences are and how to determine which products are the best fit for your particular eating plan.

What Do "Low Fat" and "Fat Free" Mean?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have defined the differences in these products as follows:
  • Low fat: Foods that have 3 grams of fat or less per serving
  • Reduced fat: Foods that have at least 25 percent less fat than their traditional counterparts
  • Light: Foods that have either one-third fewer calories or 50 percent less fat than their traditional counterparts
  • Fat free: Foods that have less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.
Unfortunately, many of these lower-calorie products don't taste quite as good as the real deal. So when you are trying to lose weight, it's important to look at the nutrition label to determine whether you would prefer the taste or the fewer calories. At the end of the day, you will need to consume fewer calories than you burn in order to lose weight.
And while you may be wondering about which diet and foods are the best, a majority of the scientific reviews currently concludes that a diet of any composition will lead to weight loss if it sufficiently reduces calories. Because weight loss involves counting calories, try to make those calories count! This means that it can help to pick foods that will help you feel fuller but contain fewer calories.
Other helpful tips for making those calories count is to try and pick foods that are natural and have the right kinds of fat, and to avoid foods made with refined starches and added sugars.
Picking a food because it is fat free doesn't mean it is free of calories. You can still gain weight eating "fat-free" or "low-fat" products if you consume more calories than your body can burn. However, reducing the amount of fat and saturated fat you eat is one way to help limit your total daily calories.
It's important to understand that if you are looking to buy low-fat or nonfat products to help lower your cholesterol, eating "fat-free" foods isn't necessarily the ultimate answer. In fact, some of these foods may do more harm than good.
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