Hi guys,  Kris from Custom Fitness here, your personal trainer in Amarillo.  When you wander through the grocery store, do you ever notice how many labels are bragging with fitness buzzwords?  Notably, “Fat-Free”?  Today we are looking at what the means and giving you hints about how to catch when it is a marketing trick versus actually being free of fat.  If you have questions about how to navigate the supermarket or would like help designing a food plan for you, give us a call 806-322-3188.

Fitness Truth Behind “Fat-Free” Labeled Foods

You’d think if it says “Fat-Free” on the label, that would mean the contents of the labeled container are . . . well . . . free of fat.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  Actually, in the wonderful world of food labels, very little makes sense.  If you want to learn to truly eat supportively, it’s imperative that you become a bit of a label reading detective. Labels can be deceiving.

Let’s look at a few products to illustrate how the deception can take place.

1. Fat-Free Non-Stick Cooking Spray

This is the one I love to hold up at our nutritional counseling sessions.  The lie is so blatant it’s comical . . . or . . . in my opinion . . . criminal.  I hold up a can of Mazola Non-Stick cooking spray.  It says right on the can, “for calorie-free fat-free cooking.”  I point out how the nutrition label says there are 0 calories in a serving and of course 0 grams of fat.  I then read aloud the ingredients.  The only significant ingredient is liquid corn oil.  I hold up a container of Mazola Liquid Corn Oil.  We see a very different nutrition label. This one says 120 calories per serving, 120 calories from fat!  It’s not only not Fat-Free, it’s 100% Fat!  Here’s how they get away with it . . .

The FDA labeling law says that if there’s less than 1/2 gram of fat in a serving, a food can be labeled “Fat-Free.”  The catch is, nobody regulates what the food companies refer to as a serving size.  If you look at the spray can, it refers to a serving as .2 grams.  That’s 2/10 of a gram.  Is there less than 1/2 a gram of fat in .2 grams of fat?  Of course!  There’s less than 1/2 a gram of anything in .2 grams.  To show you how absurd that referenced serving size is, .2 grams would equal 1/3 of one second of spray!  It’s complete and total deception that allows pure fat to be labeled “Fat-Free.”  

2. Fat-Free Butter Substitutes

There are many butter substitutes claiming to be “better than butter.”  As an example . . . I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!  It says “fat-free” all over it.  You know what to do.  Go right to the ingredients.  Hydrogenated oil.  That’s fat.  Pure fat.  Better check out the FDA regulated nutrition label.  5 calories per serving.  How many calories from fat?  5!  Another example of the reliability of our friends at the FDA in delivering “truth in labeling.”  I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter . . . but it is FAT!  As a matter of fact, from a health standpoint, hydrogenated fats are more harmful than the saturated fats butter would provide.  That doesn’t make butter a good choice, but if you’re trading it for something that contains just as much fat but gets its fat from a source that can cause cell damage . . . I’d have to say butter’s better.

3. 97% Fat-Free

These products don’t say “fat-free.”  They simply claim to be mostly fat-free.  Pick up some ground turkey that blares out on the front of its packaging, 97% Fat-Free.   Turn the container over and compare the number of calories per serving (145) to the number of calories from fat (70).  You don’t have to be a mathematical wizard to determine that nearly half of the calories in this 97% Fat-Free labeled food come from fat!

Here’s how they get away with that little trick.  If I were to eat a stick of butter (which I won’t do), I’d of course be getting 100% of my calories from fat.  If I’d drink some water with it, I’d still be getting 100% of my calories from fat, since water doesn’t have any caloric value.  If, therefore, I were to create a solution, 50% butter, 50% water, I’d have a solution that gets 100% of its calories from fat.  If, however, I were going to be a creative food labeler, I could put a label on this product that says “50% fat-free.”  Since, judging by volume, most of what’s in that turkey package is water, they are misleading you by giving you a percentage of the “volume” that is fat free rather than a percentage of calories.  Always ignore the big print on the front.  Look at the calories per serving and the calories from fat.  You can’t be sure you’ll find accuracy, but your more likely to come closer to the truth than you will when reading the “% Fat Free” announcement that helps to sell the product.

This technique, by the way, is used to sell 2% milk as 98% Fat Free.  Check out the calories per serving and the calories from fat.  You’re in for an eye-opening surprise.

4. Fat-Free Cookies, Cakes, Pastries, and Ice-Cream

Snackwell cookies anyone?  I have seen many an Amarillo personal training client go to the store seeking out the words “Fat-Free” as buying signals for snack foods that they believed were going to help them in their quest for leanness.  Many of those foods contained fat, which shouldn’t surprise you at this point, but even if the fat was negligible, there was another ingredient that was going to cripple their ability to shed fat.  Sugar.  In most cases, snack foods contain sugar as their primary ingredient.  Find out how sugar affects fat release through our other blogs and you’ll probably pass on the next box of Snackwell cookies you come across if fat loss is your goal.

It is imperative that in order to avoid being tricked by the Ad Men from 5th Ave, we must look not at the front of the products lining the aisles of the store, but rather the nutritional label.  According to the FDA, most products can say whatever they’d like on the front of the box or can. Food companies will take full advantage of this, by saturating the front of products with fitness industry buzzwords like Fat-free, gluten free, organic, etc. trying to convince the consumers that THIS is the product that will get you to your goals. Unfortunately, those words are misleading.  You don’t really know what you are eating unless you scrutinize the ingredients list on the back of the item.  FDA is very strict about what can and cannot be listen on the back of food products. Most importantly that it be an accurate representation of what the product actually contains.  

Are you ready to let go of the buzz-words and actually make progress to a better you?  If you’d like to know more about our nutrition counseling,  personal training,or group classes and programs, please contact us at: info@customfitness.biz or 806-322-3188. At Custom Fitness we are YOUR personal trainers in Amarillo, Texas. Have a great day everybody.