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It’s the Catch-22 of dieting. In a desperate attempt to lose weight, you stock your cupboards with low-fat packaged foods. Weeks later your scale is telling you that you’ve GAINED a few pounds. So, you go out and buy even more low-fat foods and the weight gain cycle continues.
A good rule to live and diet by: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! After reading today’s Label Lesson, you’ll want to apply this rule to most packaged foods that are labeled low-fat or even fat-free.
The Food Sleuths here at eBrandAid.com are taking a bite out of this “low-fat” scam. Read on for the details.
The lower-fat versions of packaged foods like cookies, cakes and crackers often sound like healthier alternatives. It turns out that food manufacturers frequently compensate for the lack of fat by adding in more sugar, salt, and thickeners. Sure it boosts flavor and adds texture, but it’s a ploy that merely substitutes one or more junk ingredients for another.
It really bites, but low-fat varieties usually hit you with about the same number of calories.
Case in point:
Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies – Regular vs. Reduced Fat
Decoding the Fine Print
Serving Size: 33g, 160 cals, total fat 8g (sat. fat 2.5g), sodium 110mg, sugar 11g, protein 2g
Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Semisweet Chocolate Chips (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin – An Emulsifier), Sugar, Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Leavening (Baking Soda, Ammonium Phosphate), Salt, Whey (From Milk), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color.
Serving Size: 32g, 140 cals, total fat 5g (sat. fat 2g), sodium 150, sugar 11g, protein 2g
Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Sugar, Semisweet Chocolate Chips (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin – An Emulsifier), Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Ammonium Phosphate), Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Whey (From Milk), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color.
When you compare the ingredients list, you discover that the only differences between the regular and the reduced-fat versions are that the reduced variety actually has two extra sugar ingredients and one extra filler – both have been added to help compensate for the lower fat. Hmmmm.
The Nutrition Facts label reveals that by choosing the lower-fat variety you’ll enjoy a mere 20-calorie savings, 3 less grams of fat (the saturated fat is about the same), and a 40-gram boost in sodium. So far, this doesn’t sound like a good trade-off to us.
But here’s the clincher. When you take the taste challenge you quickly realize that your low-fat choice doesn’t taste as good as the original recipe. Studies show you tend to eat more to statisfy your craving. This means you usually end up taking in MORE CALORIES. And that, my friends, defeats the purpose of choosing a “reduced-fat” cookie in the first place.
Sure it’s a smart move to decrease your fat intake. But, if there’s not much of a calorie difference with the reduced-fat version, you’re probably better off eating the full-fat cookie that you were craving in the first place. Just be sure to limit your intake to one per customer!
We hope you’ve taken note that both varieties of the featured cookies are packed with junk ingredients, so neither is a healthy option to begin with.
However, we would never promote total abstinence from junk food. That’s an unrealistic demand. It’s too inflexible and, frankly, it’s no fun. Instead, we urge you to watch your portions, exercise in moderation, and make better, more informed brand choices.
Tune in next month when we’ll serve our fresh-from-the-oven BestBrands review of packaged cookies!
Remember, when you’re armed with a little eBrandAid know-how, you’re in control at the grocery store.