Are Low Fat Foods Healthy?

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Although low fat foods are promoted as being the healthier choice, this is not always the case. The reduced fat content changes the low fat foods taste. Food manufacturers make up for the loss of taste in several ways.

Low fats foods may be higher in calories

A study from the Rotherham Institute for Obesity, found that some brands who advertise low-fat foods actually have more calories than their full-fat counterparts.

Low fat cheeses and breads may have higher calories. In the study mentioned, about 10% of the low fat foods tested in this study had more calories.

Low fat foods and sugar

This study also found that some of the low-fat foods were higher in sugar,  40% of the low fat foods tested had more sugar.

Low fat foods such as low fat cookies and low fat cereal bars are often high in sugar.

Low fat granola can have 17 grams of sugar in a serving.

Frozen yogurt has 17 grams of sugar.

Low fat yogurt mixed with fruit is high in sugar as well.

Low fat coffee drinks are usually high in sugar.

When companies reduce fat, they add more sugar like corn syrup and additives to improve the taste and texture.

Look for ingredients such as brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice.

Low fat foods and carbohydrates

Some low fats foods contain more carbohydrates such as low fat potato chips and breakfast cereals.

Low-fat foods and sodium levels

Some low fat foods are noted to have increased sodium levels.

Take for example a blueberry low fat muffin.

According to an article from Harvard Health, “A low-fat muffin has about the same amount of calories, but contains more carbohydrates and sugar—and about 60% more sodium (700 milligrams)—than a regular muffin.”

Some Low fat cottage cheese brands are high is sodium.

The higher salt content adds flavor to some low-fat foods that have lost their taste.

Low fat foods and vegetable oils.

There was an effort to reduce animal fats in our diet as there was a concern of increased heart disease. Vegetable oils were used instead.

Food manufacturers use a process called hydrogenation which creates a solid or semi-solid fat. Food manufacturers hydrogenate  liquid vegetables oils to make them more solid and shelf stable.

Hydrogenated oils contain trans fat which increases LDL, the bad cholesterol.

Low fat peanut butter may contain more sugar. In addition, some brands replace the natural fats from peanuts  with hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Margarine is made from hydrogenated oils.

Low fat foods and food additives

Fat-free salad dressings have additives such as,

vegetable oil, monosodium glutamate, starch, xanthum gum, artificial colors and flavors.

It is healthier to stick with the basics. For your salad dressing you can mix balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Low fat foods and portions

People have a tendency to eat a little more when they eat low fats foods.

An article from Cornell University showed that,

“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% more than those who saw labels without the low fat claim.”

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 25.1%, regardless of whether a participant was overweight or normal weight.”

“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 25.1%, regardless of whether a participant was overweight or normal weight.”

Consider preparing snack bags

The study also found that,

“Participants who received labels telling them their bags contained two servings reduced their intakes by 50 calories”

Foods that are advertised as healthy are not always healthy

Yogurt covered raisins are made with hydrogenated oils which increase the risk of heart disease.

Trail mix contains deep fried bananas and often have added sugar.

Vegetable sticks are high in fat and sodium.

Ground turkey can have 13 grams of fat.

Consider avoiding low fat foods

Our bodies need fat. Fats helps build cell membranes and hormones, they also help our body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K.

We need fat in our diet, learn more about fats here.

Make sure you read the labels of low fat foods.

What do you think of low fat food?



Health Street Journal Designs

About Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS 229 Articles
I am a physician who is interested in providing health information and health tips so that we may live healthy lives.


  1. Love this article. This is a pet peeve of mine. I think it’s healthier to eat a small amount of natural foods, fat and all.

  2. Hi Dr. Sharon moderation with meat and other foods my husband and I are working on. Both diagnosed with borderline diabetes and me with high blood pressure change was necessary. When I started researching new receipes I noticed addressing low fat was not the only thing I needed to pay attention to. Mostly in low fat frozen dishes and those healthy on the go bars would have low fat but either high sugar or high sodium. It came down to cooking more fresh vegetables and we are down to eating meat no more than twice a week. Work in progress though. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. I try to eat only non-starchy veggies and meats 80% of the time. I do not punish myself when we have family get-togethers, which always involve some sort of off-limits food. I eat a small portion, even dessert. Then get right back to low-carb. I love the way I feel when I am cutting out the sugar.

  4. Hey Sharon,
    This is my first visit to your blog and found it really awesome!

    Your post is really informative!

    Indeed, sometimes we go for some alternatives that could be worse for our health, and contain other ingredients that we should avoid, and sugar is one of them.

    Thanks for sharing this great post!


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  1. Fat is healthy. Believe it or not fat is healthy, our body needs fat.

Please comment, I would love to hear what you think about this information.