So much has been written in recent years about the “evils” of fat and the importance of maintaining a low fat diet. This has come to the forefront in the battle to overcome childhood obesity. Food manufacturers push their “low fat” versions of popular products as a “healthy alternative.” But, will eating foods marked “low fat” really help kids avoid obesity?
The short answer is “no.” Now, reducing fat in your child’s diet is a good thing in most cases. Some fat is part of a healthy diet, but American’s consume far too much of it. Most experts recommend a diet containing between 20 and 30 percent fat. Currently, the typical American diet contains about 40 percent fat, and studies show that people who are overweight or obese consume a far higher amount.
So, why do we call it a “low fat” scam? First, if you take the time to read the Nutrition Facts panel of most low fat versions, you’ll find that they often contain about the same (or close to the same) number of calories per serving as the regular version. In addition, these low fat versions often contain added sodium or sugar.
For example, we looked at two packages of Oreo cookies, one “original” and one “reduced fat.” Yes, they do cut fat, but not the calories. The original version has 160 calories per serving while the reduced fat version has 150 calories. That is a bit less, but not much. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has 320 calories per serving while the version labeled “1/2 the fat” still has 290 calories. Again, a bit less, but not nearly as much as you would expect from a product labeled “1/2 the fat.”
Second, a healthy amount of fat in your diet can help you eat less overall. Fat is one of the nutrients used by the stomach to signal the brain that it’s full. When so-called low fat foods are eaten, it can take longer for the stomach to signal your brain that it is satisfied and that you should stop eating. This leads to the consumption of extra, unneeded calories.
The bottom line: Be skeptical of foods labeled “low fat.” In fact, be skeptical of any marketing claim on the front of food packaging, but that’s a story for another post. Always read the label before purchase. If possible, compare the label of low fat foods against the label of their normal version, and purchase the healthier version. When you and your children consume the food, treat it like any other food. Just because it says “low fat” on the label doesn’t mean they can eat as much as they want.
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Remember, healthy choices you make each day can transform your family for generations! What choices will you make today?
You may also want to read: Childhood Obesity: The Role of School Vending Machines, Childhood Obesity: Portion Size Matters, Childhood Obesity: A Symptom of Deeper Issues