“Fat free” foods can have up to 0.5 grams of fat per serving (just like we saw with sugar free foods). They can still be called fat free, and can even declare 0 grams of fat per serving on the nutrition label, even if there is 0.45 grams of fat per serving. There can not be any ingredient that is added that contains fat. The “skim” label for milk also falls under these rules.
“Low fat” foods must have 3 grams of fat or less per serving.
“Reduced fat” and “less fat” foods must have at least 25% less fat than the “reference food.” The label must state how much less fat is in this food, compared to the reference food (just like we saw in fewer or reduced calorie foods).
Percent fat free
Foods that are labeled with something like “90% fat free” must meet the criteria for the “low fat” label (3 grams of fat per serving or less). If the claim is “100% fat free,” it must meet the criteria for a “fat free” label (less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving).
Milk has to follow the same regulations in labeling. We’re used to talking about whole, 2%, 1%, and skim milk. But do you know what else those labels say?
Whole milk, 8 grams of fat per serving
Reduced fat milk, 5 grams of fat per serving, 37% less fat than milk
Low fat milk, 2.5 grams of fat per serving
Fat free milk, 0 grams of fat per serving
Check the nutrition labels when you’re purchasing a reduced fat or fat free substitute. Even though the ingredient list might not look that different, the nutrition panel might show some surprising differences. Here is the nutrition information from a regular and reduced fat variety of cheese crackers (my favorite!).
|Regular cheese crackers||Reduced fat cheese crackers|
|Calories from fat||70||40|
|Total fat||8 grams||4.5 grams|
|Saturated fat||2 grams||1 gram|
|Trans fat||0 grams||0 grams|
|Polyunsaturated fat||4 grams||2 grams|
|Monounsaturated fat||2 grams||1 gram|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||0 mg|
|Sodium||230 mg||250 mg|
|Total carbohydrate||17 grams||20 grams|
|Dietary fiber||< 1 gram||< 1 gram|
|Sugars||0 grams||0 grams|
|Protein||3 grams||4 grams|
Even though the amount of fat is cut almost in half, there’s only a 20 calorie difference in the regular and reduced fat varieties. The reduced fat crackers actually have a little more sodium (probably not enough to make a difference), and more carbohydrates (17 grams compared to 20 grams).
No one said reading food labels was easy… the choices you make should be based on what aspects of nutrition you are watching. Are you looking for low calorie, low fat, or low carbohydrate? Are you looking for less processed ingredients, or is an artificial sugar substitute okay to save a few calories?
No one can make these decisions except for you. Now head to the grocery store and make your own healthy food choices!
(Did you notice all the different types of fat in that nutrition label comparison? Wondering what the difference is between saturated fat, trans fat, polyunsaturated fat, and monounsaturated fat? Check back later this week to find out!)