April 1st, 2014

What Does a Fat-Free Label Really Mean?

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Groovy Green Livin Fat-Free Label

Fat-free is a term that many of us are very familiar with. We see ‘fat-free’ on our food labels and we seek it out on the foods we love to eat.

What Does ‘Fat-Free’ Mean?

There’s an assumption that fat-free actually means free of all fat. Well it doesn’t. The label that reads ‘fat-free’ can actually be very misleading.

The FDA permits foods to be labeled ‘fat-free’ if they contain less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.

Here’s the tricky part. If you eat over and above the serving size on the package chances are the food will no longer be fat-free. And we all know how small those serving sizes tend to be on a food label. Most are very unrealistic.

For example let’s pretend we are about to indulge and eat a fat-free, chocolate chip cookie for lunch. The label on the cookie packaging states that the serving size is 1 tasty cookie. We all know that it’s next to impossible to eat only one cookie. So now we add two more cookies to our lunch-time treat. While each cookie has under the 0.5 grams fat content to legally be called fat-free, when added together they exceed that amount. Those cookies are no longer fat free.

Does ‘Fat-Free’ Mean Calorie-Free?

Fat-free does not mean calorie-free. Not all calories are created equal, but it still holds true that a calorie is a calorie whether it comes from fat or carbohydrates. Packaging can say a product is fat free, but it could be loaded with sugar. Check labels carefully for calorie count and serving size.

Sometimes It’s OK to Eat a Little Fat.

The type of fat you eat may be more important than the amount of fat you eat. When choosing your foods think about finding sources of good fat, not necessarily fat-free foods. Bad fats in food can increase your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Consuming foods with good fat will help keep your heart and body healthy. Omega-3 fats are an example of good fats and can be found in Chia seeds, salmon and other fish and Brussels sprouts.

Best solution: Eat everything in moderation, do your best to stick with fruits and vegetables which are naturally low in fat and try to avoid processed foods as much as possible.

What do you think of the fat-free label? Is it important to you when you’re buying food?

photo credit: MyDigitalSLR via photopin cc

6 Responses to “What Does a Fat-Free Label Really Mean?”

  1. I avoid fat free labels unless it is a naturally occurring fat free food. The additives that are usually in these food are things I want to avoid. But I remember when the craze started I thought it was a great invention.
    Leigh recently posted..Great Free Kindle Books For SpringMy Profile

  2. Unfortunately “Fat Free” and “Low Fat” labels on food – is just an empty marketing language for companies to label foods that are full of sugar to imply they are healthy choices!!

  3. […] Low fat products AREN’T necessarily a healthier option and DON’T have less sugar. […]

  4. […] we’re on a quest to find  healthy, non-toxic food for our families. Going aisle to aisle reading labels and deciphering ingredients is an ongoing challenge for many of […]

  5. Personally I avoid marketing gimmicks, which includes “fat free” or “all natural” or “zero calories” labeling. The substitutions for fat and calories are usually worse than the “fat” itself. Plus the trick of any healthy eating is to limit portions and eat whole foods, not replace parts of your diet with chemicals.
    Kara Kelso recently posted..How to Grow a “Perennial” Tomato GardenMy Profile

  6. So true Kara. I agree with you- we need to focus more on eating whole, healthy foods and portion control rather than adding chemical laden foods to our diet.

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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