Fat-Free Vs. Regular: What Should I Choose?

Food shopping can be so confusing, especially with all of the different health claims and information on product labels.  One question that people often ask is whether they should choose reduced-fat or regular products.  The answer to that question really depends on the product, and reading the food label can be the best way to make an informed decision.  The following are some things to look consider when choosing a product.

If they replace the fat with sugar, it is generally not a better choice.  A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.  It doesn’t matter if the calories come from sugar or fat; consuming more calories than you burn will lead to weight gain.  Sometimes, low-fat products can even be higher in calories than the regular version.  For example, a Fat-free fig cookie is 70 calories versus the regular product that is only 50 calories.  To see if they added extra sugar, look for words like sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup and high-fructose corn syrup on the ingredient label.      

When a product uses a lower-fat preparation method to create a reduced-fat version, it generally is a better option.  For example, when something is baked instead of fried, the manufactures are often not adding another ingredient.  This often leads to a product that is lower in fat and calories.

Another thing to take into consideration is the type of fat that is being reduced.  Saturated fats and Trans fats are unhealthy and can increase the risk of heart disease, so cutting down on these types of fat would be beneficial.  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats, so reduced-fat versions of these products would not necessarily be better.  For example, peanut butter is made up of primarily healthy fats so the full-fat version would be best.  On the other hand, butter is a saturated fat, so a reduced-fat version would be better.

For more information about good fats vs. bad fats click here.