With all the diet foods on the market now, you’d think losing weight would be as easy as going to the supermarket. And the new nutrition labels certainly make it easy to figure out how much fat and calories are in a serving of food. Or do they?
Read Labels Carefully
Nutrition labels are certainly a help in determining if a food fits your dietary requirements-but only if you read the label carefully.
An important figure to consider is the percentage of calories from fat. For instance, a low-fat frozen yogurt with 150 total calories and 30 calories from fat has 20 percent of its calories as fat.
Most nutritionists recommend that no more than 30 percent — slightly less than one third-of the calories in a balanced diet come from fat. If you are on a weight-loss program you may want to stick to an even lower percentage of fat calories.
The problem is, many food companies substitute sugar for fat in their products. It makes the percentage of fat calories look low, but you’re still getting a lot of worthless calories. It’s a mistake to believe that you can eat all the fat-free food you want. You still need to avoid eating more calories than your body can use. Here are some “diet food” pitfalls to watch out for:
Diet margarine: Almost all the calories in margarine, whether diet or not, come from fat. You get fewer calories in a tablespoon of diet margarine, but they’re still nearly 100 percent fat calories.
Fat-free cakes: The fat in these cakes has been replaced with sugar so they are still high in calories. And often the serving size has been reduced, to make it look like you’re not getting very many calories.
Fruit juice-sweetened cookies: Fruit juice is simply a form of sugar. These cookies have nearly the same number of calories as sugar-sweetened cookies.
Muffins: Who can resist a moist, chewy muffin? Unfortunately, much of that moist texture comes from fat. And muffins are large. The average muffin has more fat-and calories-than a cream-filled doughnut with chocolate frosting.
Part-skim cheese: Cheese is so high in fat anyway that part-skim cheese still has, typically, more than 50 percent fat calories.
While not all diet foods live up to their promise, here are some traditional foods whose low fat content may surprise you:
- Pretzels: One ounce of pretzels has only one tenth of the fat in an ounce of potato chips.
- Buttermilk: Don’t let the “butter” throw you off. One cup of buttermilk has slightly less fat than a cup of 1 percent milk.
- Pancakes: A pancake has about the same number of calories as a slice of bread. It’s what you put on it that makes a difference. Try topping it with low-fat fruit yogurt or jam.
- Bagels: Just one gram of fat per bagel, and the same calories as two slices of bread.
- Potatoes: A medium-sized sweet or white potato has about 30 calories and just a tenth of a gram of fat providing you skip the sour cream, butter and gravy.