The Skinny on Low-Fat Dairy

Posted in Dairy Foods

Dear Brand Doctor,

A few weeks ago you wrote about “low-fat” processed packaged foods like cookies, crackers and cakes and how they often have just as many calories (and sometimes more) as the regular versions of the same food. Does this rule of thumb hold up for low-fat dairy products as well?
Signed, Cheese-Lovin’ Lori

Dear Cheese Lover,

Great question! Here’s our No. 1 rule to live and diet by: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is…especially when you’re dealing with packaged foods that are labeled low-fat or fat-free.

Good news. This DOES NOT apply to low-fat varieties of dairy products, so keep right on enjoying your low-fat cheese!

We told you how the manufacturers of processed packaged foods usually add more sugar, flour or thickeners to improve flavor and texture after the fat is removed from their foods. In turn, these ingredients usually add calories. So, basically they are just trading one junk ingredient for several others.

However, when it comes to low-fat and non-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese, these options are as nutritious as whole milk dairy products, but with far less fat and calories.

Here’s the skinny: manufacturers simply skim off some – if not all – of the fat without adding in anything to make up for the loss. Great news, right? Well, it gets even better.

We think many reduced-fat and low-fat dairy products taste just as good as their full-fat counterparts. In some cases it’s really hard to tell the difference. While our food sleuths could taste a difference with some non-fat milk and cheeses, it wasn’t a deal breaker. The savings in fat and calories make the trade-off well worth it.

Decoding the Fine Print

To choose the healthiest dairy products – the ones with lower amounts of fat and calories – simply read the fine print on the Nutrition Facts label. Pay attention to the differences in calories and fat on the following milk options. You’ll quickly see that less is more when it comes to skimming the fat on dairy!

Whole Milk
1 cup: 150 calories, 8g Fat (5g saturated fat), 8g Protein
INGREDIENTS: Milk, Vitamin D3

Reduced-Fat (2%)
1 cup: 130 calories, 5g Fat (3g saturated fat), 8g Protein
INGREDIENTS: Reduced-Fat Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3

Low-fat (1%)
1 cup: 110 calories, 2.5g Fat (1.5g saturated fat), 8g Protein
INGREDIENTS: Low-fat Milk, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3

Skim (0%)
1 cup: 90 calories, 0g Fat (0g saturated fat), 8g Protein
INGREDIENTS: Fat-Free Milk, vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D3

News Flash! Switch from whole milk to skim milk and you’ll save a whopping 60 calories and 8 grams of fat (5 saturated) per cup. That’s a savings you can take straight to your nutritional bank!

Reality Check

Dairy does a body good…there’s little doubt of that. However, it’s a smart move to bypass the whole fat choices that are high in the cholesterol-raising saturated fat that has been linked to heart disease.

Steer clear of problems by reading the label and opting for the low-fat or non-fat dairy products that retain their taste and nutritional benefits while stampeding away the artery clogging fat and extra calories. It’s win-win for your health and your waistline.

Remember, when you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, you’re in control at the grocery store.

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In Our Opinion: The information contained in the eBrandAid e-newsletters is strictly based on the opinions of the eBrand Doctors. We have created a set of guidelines that we believe will help shoppers to better understand and decode food labels on products found in most grocery stores. Our mission is to help shoppers find the healthier brands that have the least amount of chemicals and other junk ingredients.

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