Food Face-Off: Low Fat vs. Low Calorie

January 13, 2014

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food label low fat vs. low calorie Food labels can be deceptive, and when you’re trying to lose weight, they are important to understand. But a healthy stamp doesn’t necessarily mean a food item is good for your medical weight loss plan. Your head may spin wondering the healthiest choice between low-fat and low-calorie items. It’s time to put the battle to rest, so you can easily make the right choice during your next trip to the grocery store.

Low-Fat: In order for a food to be labeled low fat, it must contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving, and for an item to be labeled fat free, it must contain less than 0.5 grams of total fat. Here’s where it gets tricky: Taking fat out of foods isn’t necessarily a good thing. You want to steer clear of saturated fat, but other fats are good for you. In fact, 20 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from healthy fats, like those found in olive oil and avocado. So, if you’re following a 2,000-calorie diet, 56 to 78 grams will come from fat per day. Be warned: Often times, when a food is labeled low fat, the fat is replaced with an unhealthy additive to make up for the loss in taste. Low-fat peanut butter is a common example—healthy, monounsaturated fats are replaced with sugar, making the full-fat option a healthier choice.

Low-Calorie: A low-calorie item must have 40 calories or less per serving, and a calorie-free item must have five calories or less. You lose weight when you consume fewer calories than you burn, so the low-calorie stamp seems like a good pick. However, some low-calorie foods lack in nutritional value, so it’s almost like eating air. Take rice cakes, for example. Rice cakes are low in fat, calories, and clock in at just around 35 calories per serving. However, you aren’t doing your body much good in terms of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other essential nutrients. When you need a snack, you’re better off eating something nutrient dense. Topping a rice cake with peanut butter, for example, will keep you full longer and provide additional nutrients.

The Best Choice: A low-calorie but nutrient-dense diet is the key to weight loss success. Calorie counting keeps your weight loss plan in check and ensures you don’t consume more than you burn. Coupled with an exercise program, those pesky pounds will melt away quickly!

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[…] debate between more frequent, smaller meals versus three larger meals is a food face-off worthy of chatter. However, the clear winner of this dieting strategy battle isn’t so clear […]

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