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The Label
Reading a food label is paramount in
order to clarify exactly what we are
eating. Furthermore, Shamseddine
elaborates that if we read the label of
our low-fat food item, we may just
see the following fat or nutritional
claims; these include fat-free at less
than 0.5grams fat per serving or a
percent fat free which is based on
100grams. “When a product meets the
definition of low fat or is one hundred
percent fat free, a claim can be made
when a product meets the definition
of fat free and contains no added fat,”
she says. “Also there is low-fat which
means 3grams or less fat per serving
and finally, reduced or less fat which is
25 percent or less fat per serving than
regular product.”
The Reasoning
Three recent studies done by the Food
and Brand Lab found that putting low–
fat labels on snack foods encouraged
people to eat up to 50 percent more
than those who saw labels without
the low fat claim. Basically just seeing
the words ‘low–fat’ actually motivated
people in these studies to consume
84 extra calories simply due to the
“low–fat” label on a product which
makes them wrongly assume it has
fewer calories. On average, participants
underestimated the calorie content of
“low–fat” M&Ms and granola by 48
percent and 50 percent, respectively.
So why do low–fat labels cause people
to overeat? One of the three studies
found that giving participants a food
with a “low–fat” label caused them
to increase their perception of an
appropriate serving size by 25.1percent,
regardless of whether a participant
was overweight or normal weight.
Additionally, participants believed that
foods labelled as “low–fat” had about
260 fewer calories, and all participants
said they would feel less guilty for
eating “low–fat foods,” especially
Also in order to make fat-free foods
palatable, food producers must add
something to the foods. The reason
is because when you take away the
fat in a food, it renders the food
tasteless. Most notably incorporated
is excess sugar which according to
experts, is what really makes us fat
and is ultimately stored in our fat cells.
Sugar makes us want to eat more and
ultimately prevents us from losing
Diet foods and
Healthy Substitutes
Sugar free cookies and sugar
free candies
Shamseddine reminds us that sugar
free does not equate to fat-free. “And
when it is sugar free, this means that
the food contains artificial sweeteners
like sucralose and aspartame which, if
over-consumed, could be potentially
carcinogenic,” she says, instead she
advises we prepare our own homemade
oatmeal cookies with a minimum
amount of sugar and fat. Pureed apples
can be used as a fat substitute while
dried fruits can add sweetness.
Breakfast cereals
Breakfast cereals are a very healthy
option. However Shamseddine advises
that we should always choose the ones
that are plain, unsweetened and made
from whole-grains.
Low fat Salad dressings
Delicious dressings always make
salads more palatable yet Shamseddine
recommends that instead we aim to
prepare our own salad dressing as the
readymade ones often contain a high
amount of fat and lots of additives.
“We can use condiments such as
mustard, balsamic vinegar, herbs and a
minimum amount of the heart healthy
olive oil,” she advises, as well as Greek
yogurt, feta cheese and even a dash of
lime juice.
Diet sodas
Recently there has a controversy
surrounding the safety and risks in
consuming diet sodas. A study by
researchers at the University of Texas
Health Science Center at San Antonio,
presented at a recent meeting of the
American Diabetes Association, has
added to growing research that diet
soda is not a “guilt-free” treat at all.
Instead, after following 474 diet soda
drinkers for nearly 10 years, they
found that their waists grew 70 percent
more than the waists of non-diet soda
drinkers. Further, those who drank
two or more diet sodas a day had a 500
percent greater increase in waist size.
Recent research has also linked diet
soda consumption to higher rates of
strokes, heart attacks and other lethal
vascular problems as well as metabolic
syndrome. Rather than drink sodas at
all, Shamseddine advises we replace
them altogether with sparkling water
with a hint of lemon and mint. (http://
Low fat yogurt
This, points out Shamseddine, is a
healthy option. “We just need to bear
in mind the amount we are consuming
daily based on our calorie needs and to
choose plain and unsweetened ones,”
Apr/May 2014