When you reach for the low-fat version of your favourite yogurt, you likely assume it’s lower in calories. But a new University of Toronto study
of about 6,000 products has found that most of the low-fat and fat-free packaged foods sold in Canada contain just as many calories as their full-fat counterparts.
The misleading low-fat foods include cereals, bread products, crackers, granola bars, rice cakes, yogurts, chips and fruit-based snacks, according to a report in the National Post
. And when products did contain fewer calories? The difference was as small as 17 calories a serving.
The researchers found that foods can be up to 50 percent lower in fat, but have virtually no difference in calories, thanks to additional sugars and other ingredients. Diet distractions
These deceptive claims on food labels
may be sabotaging consumers’ efforts to eat healthy by focusing only on fat content
, the study's authors suggest. And when consumers presume these low-fat foods are healthier options, they may actually end up eating more of them.
Some health professionals say we need to rethink our fear of fats
in general—and support reforms to nutrition labels
"What is surprising is that we still have a country that is so stuck in 1990s thinking around saturated fat," Yoni Freedhoff, a doctor and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, told the Post.
“The evidence base around saturated fats being uniformly evil has been eroded over the years—enough that we should be seeing front-of-package claim reforms in Canada, and perhaps disallow the use of terminology like low-fat."
For now, when you're out shopping, check the nutrition facts panels on low-fat and regular versions of your favourite foods. The full-fat version may fit into your diet—and even taste better.
Looking for better ways to eat healthy and lose weight? Get fresh ways to cut 200 calories
from your diet and five dieting missteps