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"Fat Free" label shell game?

I recently bought two different yogourts where both nutrition labels showed a total of 100 calories per serving.

One was "fat free" the other was not. They both tasted great.

Both can be part of a healthy diet, but should there be a bias towards the "fat free" choice?

I like calling a spade a spade. When we see "fat free" on the label we think less fat on our butts, and fewer calories consumed. That's the attraction, the selling feature of the phrase "fat free". The trouble is that while we initially read "less fat on my butt" when we see the fat free label, we also think, "I can eat more of this stuff". That's a two for one marketing message impact; eat more and have less butt fat.

Nutrition label Info:

Fat Free Yogourt Plain Yogourt
Serving Size 125g 1/2 cup 175g 1/3 cup
Calories 100 (140)* 100
Fat 0 3
Trans Fat 0 0
Cholesterol 5 10
Carbohydrates 21 11
Sugars 17 9
Protein 4 7
Calories per gram 0.8 0.57

*The "fat free" yogourt has 40% more calories than the plain yogourt for the same serving size of 175g 1/3 cup.

Part of the problem with comparing nutrition labels is there is no standard for what a serving size is - that's left up to the manufacturer. These two yogourts have different serving size references.

It has been suggested by some that those selling higher calorie foods will reduce their serving size portion so the total calories appear lower and therefore more attractive, and perhaps more aligned with a competing product with lower calories.

Of course we can never prove that this labeling shell game technique is used with the intent to mislead, we can only compare labels and make our own decisions.

In this comparison the "fat free" yogurt has 40% more calories when compared gram for gram, but both have 100 calorie serving sizes for the nutrition label. Personally I'll take the 3 grams of fat and lower calorie per gram product. Fat is an essential nutrient that requires a balanced intake. By limiting our fat grams per meal to between 10 and 15 grams, we can easily meet the average 50 to 60 grams of fat per day recommendation. Regular exercisers and endurance exercisers will need more fat, and more total calories to support more energy expenditure.

Watching our total calorie intake is important. Fretting about 3 grams of fat between two food choices is unreasonable.

If a person didn't study the labels and do the math, the low fat yogurt appears to have the same total calories as the plain yogurt, but this isn't true when compared gram for gram.

I suppose each company can claim their reasons for defining different typical serving sizes for the same product, but the fact remains; in a side by side comparison the low fat label is at minimum confusing if not outright misleading.

Eating the same amount of this fat free yogurt as the regular option will result in 40% more calories consumed. If you aren't wary of this labeling practice that spans many food items, not just yogurt, you may unwittingly be puting more fat on your butt.

Go here to learn about the daily requirements of fat's carbohydrates, and protein.

2007 Cris LaBossiere Rhino Fitness www.rhinofitness.ca



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