I've heard lately that low fat foods are actually worse for you because they contain a great deal more of sugar than the regular fat foods. Are there any foods that are better as a low fat version? What foods should we avoid the low fat version of?

Your question is a good one! Some products actually do remove the fat and replace the fat with sugar. Take one popular brand of sandwich cookie for example. If you look at the label, the low fat version is only 20 calories less per serving than the regular version. And they actually contain more carbohydrates! But, to the shopper trying to watch her waistline, a product that says “Reduced Fat” would likely catch her eye and I bet she would consider that product a “healthier” purchase over the regular version. Many manufacturing companies market their products to consumers that are trying to eat healthier and watch their weight. Unfortunately, many people don’t take time to review the food label and compare total calories per serving. They think that since the product is “reduced fat” then it is good for them and they give themselves permission to eat as much of the product as they want, leading to excess calorie consumption.

In my opinion, there are a few foods that are better in the reduced fat or “lean” version. Since I urge my patients to reduce the amount of saturated fat in their diet, I urge them to buy meat that is “lean” (lower in fat). I don’t eat a lot of meat, but when I do get ground meat, I choose “Extra Lean” ground turkey so that there will be a reduction of calories and saturated fat. And, while I don’t drink regular milk, if a patient asks me what type of milk to buy, I generally recommend that they skip the whole milk option and choose the 1% option. Since milk contains a lot of vitamin D, and vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, you will need a little fat to help your body absorb the vitamins. So, in general I am a bigger fan of the “reduced fat” vs. “fat free” choice when it comes to dairy products.

Because many reduced fat foods have added sugars, I would recommend limiting their consumption. Keep in mind, I would naturally recommend that we limit all processed foods whether they are regular fat or reduced fat. This would include things like: cookies, ice cream, granola bars, pudding etc. Other products that I would encourage patients to buy the regular version include: peanut butter, yogurt, and salad dressing. Finally, overall remember that calories add up at the end of the day so be sure to check the food label, monitor portion sizes, and reduce foods with added sugar, fat, and salt.

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