If It’s Low In Fat Does It Mean It’s Low in Calories?

Does Low Fat = Low Calorie?

No, No, and No!


What Does Low Fat and Low Calorie Mean?

Here’s the FDA definitions:

  • Low Fat – 3 grams fat or less per serving
  • Reduced or Less Fat — at least 25% less fat per serving than the “regular” full-fat food
  • Fat Free – Less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving
  • Low Calorie – Less than 40 calories per serving
  • Calorie Free – Less than 5 calories per serving
  • Light — At least 50% less fat or 1/3 fewer calories per serving than the “regular” full-fat version

Check The Serving Size, The Fat Grams, And the Calories

Remember to check the serving size listed on the Nutrition Facts panel of your food. If the food comes without a label there are tons of online resources to check portion sizes and the nutrition facts. Here’s a muffin example:  the  package label on a box of muffins lists the fat content – for one muffin – as 20 grams.  If the fat content per muffin is reduced to 15 grams per muffin, the muffin can be called reduced fat but it is still has five times more fat (in grams) than the 3g per serving that fits the guidelines for low fat.

When The Fat Comes Out – What Goes In?

Mostly sugar. In a lot of low fat and fat free foods, sugar, flour, and other full calorie ingredients, replace the fat.  Consequently, there’s very little, if any, reduction in calories.

Check these out:


Peanut Butter, 2 tablespoons:

  • Regular: 190 calories, 16g fat
  • Reduced fat: 190 calories, 12g fat

Wheat Thins (16 crackers):

  • Regular:  150 calories, 6g fat
  • Low Fat Wheat Thins:  130 calories; 4g fat

Oreos (3 cookies):

  • Original:  160 calories, 7g fat
  • Low Fat Oreos: 150 calories, 4.5g fat

Fig Newtons (2 cookies):

  • Regular:  110, 2g fat
  • Fat free:  100 calories, 0g fat

Granola (1/2 cup):

  • Regular:  210 calories, 6g fat
  • Low fat granola:  160 calories, 2.2g fat

Tortilla Chips (1 oz.):

  • Regular:   141 calories, 7.3g fat
  • Light tortilla chips:  132 calories, 4.3g fat

SocialDieter Tip:

Just because a product says it’s low fat or fat free don’t go hog wild and eat it with no concern.  There often isn’t much of a caloric difference between a low or fat free version of a food and the regular version because the fat that’s taken out is usually replaced with some full calorie combination of sugar and starch.

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One Response to If It’s Low In Fat Does It Mean It’s Low in Calories?

  1. Kathy Colaiacovo May 19, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    Thanks for these great tips! Kind of eye opening and I will be watching my labels for sure.

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