Low-fat foods: Not always low calorie?

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Low-fat foods: Not always low calorie?


I'm trying to lose weight. I've heard that some reduced-fat and fat-free foods aren't low in calories. What good are lower fat foods if they're still high in calories?

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Many people trying to lose weight believe that reduced-fat or fat-free foods are always low in calories and that they can eat as much as they want of these foods. But this isn't necessarily true.

Foods contain different combinations of calorie-containing nutrients. Carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram. Alcohol provides about 7 calories per gram. Fat provides 9 calories per gram.

When fat is reduced or removed from a food, nutrients that remain still contribute calories. Also, manufacturers may alter the amounts of the remaining ingredients. For example, corn syrup (a carbohydrate) is often increased to make up for the loss of flavor or texture that results when fat is taken out.

Lower fat foods that aren't lower in calories offer the most benefit to people who are at a healthy weight but want to limit fat to reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease. If you're trying to lose weight, check food labels closely for total calorie content, not just the fat content.

Regular and reduced-fat snacks: A calorie comparison
Food Serving Fat* (grams) Calories*
Chocolate chip cookie, regular 1 cookie (10 grams) 3 49
Chocolate chip cookie, reduced-fat 1 cookie (10 grams) 2 45
Ice cream, regular 1/2 cup (72 grams) 8 145
Ice cream, fat-free 1/2 cup (72 grams) 0 99.3
Potato chips, regular About 12 large chips or 20 small chips (about 1 ounce) 11 155
Potato Chips, reduced fat About 12 large chips or 20 small chips (about 1 ounce) 5.9 134
Potato chips, baked About 12 large chips or 20 small chips 5.1 132.9
Pretzels, regular About 18 tiny twists or 10 larger twists (60 grams) 2 228
Pretzels, fat-free About 18 tiny twists or 9 larger twists (60 grams) 0 214
Wheat crackers, regular 15 crackers (30 grams) 6 135
Wheat crackers, reduced-fat 15 crackers (30 grams) 4 128

*Individual brands may vary. Check the label.

Sources: Nutritionist Pro, version 2.2.16, First DataBank Inc., 2004; the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 2005; and manufacturers' Web sites.

Last Updated: 09/19/2006
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