Fat Free vs. Calorie Free

Is a fat free food the same thing as a calorie free food product?

Oftentimes customers confuse the two, buying more ‘fat free products’ at the supermarket, all the while thinking that they are consuming ‘less calories.’ The snowball effect is that when people buy these ‘fat free food products,’ they over consume them (thinking they are eating less) to the point where their calorie intake soars higher than if they just had a small serving of the food in its ‘real form.’ Let me sort out the difference for you…

When fat-free and reduced-fat snack foods like cookies, chips and other “snack foods” flooded the supermarket a few years back, they were proclaimed to make a major advance in the battle against obesity. Marketing adds were put out by companies selling pretzels, gummy bears, fudgsicles, hot tamales that proudly added the words “fat free” to their labels.

But soon people began to see that fat-free foods weren’t the answer they had been hoping for. They did not know that when the ‘fat’ is taken out, other things are added to the food product to enhance flavor- such as salt, sugar and refined carbohydrates. In result, consumers found that even though they were eating “less fat” by choosing these foods, they were still eating far too many calories and gaining weight as a result. Sugar, salt, or carbohydrates eaten in excess (and when not utilized for energy) are stored in the body as fat.

In fact, fat-free foods can contain nearly the same number of calories as the original versions. For example, Snackwells cookies crème sandwich contains 110 calories, 3 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbohydrate, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein per serving. There are a few problems with this:

  • The carbohydrates are coming from refined flour, which increase your blood sugars very quickly (harmful to people with Diabetes or borderline Diabetics).
  • There is no fiber (fiber is necessary to normal GI function and helping you to feel full for longer).
  • There is a high sugar content (which can be stored as fat when the body converts it).
  • There is very little protein (which provides the satiety).
  • All in all, you will be hungry in an hour or less and snack on 3 more of these ‘fat free cookies’ or other snack.

My point is that you could have a much more nutrient dense food for the same amount of calories- with a lower sugar content, more fiber (whole grains), and more protein. A healthy alternative would be a slice of Ezekiel Sesame sprouted grain bread (all natural, no preservatives, complete protein) with a spread of raw, unsalted almond butter. This snack is low calorie, and packed with fiber, protein and no sugar…leaving you feeling satisfied and focused!

There is more to losing weight and keeping it off than just cutting out fat. Don’t be deceived by the marketing adds on the front of the product. Always read the nutrition facts label to see what you are really getting and compare it to healthy options!  Remember, fat free is only one part of the story. It is best to eat foods in their most natural form.

To learn more about healthy meal and snack planning and understanding nutrition facts label reading, schedule an appointment or Grocery Store Tour with Courtney Walberg, Registered Dietitian and Founder of Nutrition For Body And Mind.