Low Fat vs. Reduced Fat? Watch out for misleading labels.

Marketing tactics in the food industry can be tricky. It is easy to gravitate towards food labels that claim "low fat" or "reduced fat" because they seem like obvious choices. We would like to assume Big Food has our back and that these foods are better for us. Both “low fat” and “reduced fat” labels are red flags that actually do not mean the same thing. Not even close... and one is more dangerous than the other. Far more concerning than the amount of fat in a packaged food, are the highly inflammatory ingredients used to replace fat in processed foods. Here are 10 commonly misleading foods to watch out for.

Marketing tactics in the food industry can be tricky. Unfortunately, misleading people into thinking a food is healthy is quite easy, with the right lingo.

Fat in food, for instance, is often considered a menace when we are looking to lose stubborn weight.

That said, “low fat” and “reduced fat” are marketing buzzwords commonly used to lure people in because we assume they are healthier for us.

However, both “low fat” and “reduced fat” labels are red flags.

Interestingly enough, “reduced fat” foods can be more problematic than those labeled as “low fat” — which surprisingly do not mean the same thing. 

The Difference Between Low Fat and Reduced Fat.

Generally speaking, to be labeled as “low fat,” a food item can only contain 3 grams of fat per serving, or 30%, or less, of the total calories per serving. A low fat label can be “helpful” if you are being mindful of your fat intake, but it does not equate to healthy ingredients.

Things get weirder because “reduced fat” does not mean “low in fat” at all and in fact, just means that the product you are fancying contains at least 25 percent less fat than the original version. 

Example: Take a “reduced fat” cookie dough ice cream, for instance. It may seem like a brilliant and easy way to enjoy what you want at less cost to your health, but if the original flavor of ice cream contained 35 grams of fat per serving, and the fat has been reduced to 26 grams, the brand can claim that their product is a “reduced fat” option, simply because it contains 25% less fat than the original.  Yikes.

Reduced fat foods replace real food ingredients with inflammatory garbage.

The issue I have with “reduced fat” foods is not with the amount of the fat, per se. Fat does not make people fat, but as a side note, there are many reasons outside of weight loss to be aware of the type and quantity of fat in your diet, such as inflammation, or concern of fatty liver disease, for instance.

The problem I have with “reduced fat” foods is with the added ingredients, not the misleading marketing lure. 

While one might be quick to assume that a food with less fat than the original version is a better option, when it comes to Big Food Industry, it is almost always a joke.

Processed, convenience, or “junk” food is literally designed to be addictive. The cost of you not liking a food is too high, so whereas it is relatively easy to reduce the amount of oil you use in your own kitchen, a shelf stable food does not have that luxury.

The food industry aims to attract you (with sexy marketing and buzzwords), get you hooked on that first bite and keep you as a loyal customer. One of the ways they lock you in is by helping you to feel good about your purchase (ex: by suggesting they are lower in fat and thus better for you) while still maintaining the delicious factor. 

Naturally, the manufacturers of the aforementioned, theoretical, reduced fat ice cream, still want people to love their product while feeling good about their purchase decision. If you did not like the new reduced fat option, you would not be apt to buy it again, nor would you still feel a sense of satisfaction for buying a (fake) healthier option. Instead, you would buy something tastier from another brand. Duh, right?

So how do they keep you hooked?

Fat is delicious.

A lower fat product is not as delicious as the original version. The solution? Food scientists load up their new products with sugar, preservatives, additives and inflammatory vegetable oils to replicate the flavors and texture provided by fat in the original versions. 

When shopping, compare and contrast a reduced fat food to the original version and be sure to look beyond the fat content. Look at the ingredients!! Always!

Fat is healthy!

REAL fats!

10 Foods to Watch Out For!

Here are 10 foods that are commonly reduced in fat and usually loaded with ingredients you would not want to be eating. Before adding a reduced fat food to your basket, check out the ingredients and then look at the sugar content. A reduced fat yogurt, for instance, can have the same amount of sugar as ice cream! 

  1. Yogurt
  2. Skim Milk– read this article!
  3. Cheese
  4. Cereal
  5. Salad Dressing — read this article!
  6. Mayonnaise 
  7. Nut butter
  8. Baked goods
  9. Ice cream and frozen yogurt 
  10. Butter alternatives — read this article!

My advice is to go for the full fat version and to choose the product with fewer ingredients— ideally, ones that you can pronounce.

We will often be more satisfied eating the real ice cream, muffin, yogurt, or dressing and less likely to feel the need to eat the whole carton. Plus, real ingredients are not as likely to create as much stress and inflammation as their reduced fat counterparts and can provide more nutrients, which is ultimately what satisfies are cravings.

Real food always wins out.