Don't pig out on "low fat" snacks

According to researchers at Cornell University, in the U.S., eating so-called 'low fat,' versions of snack foods only serves to encourage people to over-indulge.

The result is they end up eating more calories than if they had eaten the regular versions.

The researchers say when the label says 'low fat,' beware as the calories can still add up and this applies in particular to those people who are overweight.

As experts say we appear to be living in a world of fat-free, carb-free and sugar-free products, but an increasing number of both adults and children are overweight or obese.

They believe low-fat labels can trick people into eating more than regular labels and give people an excuse to eat more.

They say people underestimate the amount of calories in low-fat snacks and overestimate how much of these snacks they think they can safely eat and mistakenly believe that "low-fat" equals "low-calorie."

The low-fat snacks used in the study were only a little lower in calories than the regular versions, and though they had 59 percent less fat, they only contained 15 percent fewer calories per serving.

The low-fat label creates the illusion that everything low-fat is also healthy and this led overweight participants in the study to load up on such snacks, consuming an average of 90 more calories when a snack had "low-fat" on the label which equated to a 50 percent increase.

Those of normal weight in the study were also enticed by the "low-fat tag but they did not over-indulge to such an extent, consuming 30 more calories per snacking session, on average.

But for both groups, the results show that these seemingly innocent low-fat snacks actually contributed more calories to the diet because more were eaten.

The Cornell researchers suggest that low-fat-labeled foods give people the mental permission to eat more and they feel less guilty about how much they have eaten.

The researchers say labels should depict larger, more realistic serving sizes, which might deter people from eating too much by giving them a more accurate calorie count.

Experts have a number of suggestions for snacking and they include:-

  • keeping track of calories as well as fat,

  • building in portion control by buying prepackaged, 100-calorie snacks,

  • or pack your own, opting for naturally low-fat snacks, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than low-fat, processed snacks such as cookies, crackers and chips and

  • drinking a glass of water when the urge to snack appears.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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