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Low -Calorie And Low-Fat Foods - What Are They All About?

Updated on January 21, 2018

According to market researchers Mintel, the low-fat and low-calorie foods market has experienced booming sales. Their research shows that over three quarters of consumers buy low-fat and low-calorie products, with the most popular ranges being salad accompaniments. Low fat crisps have also increased in popularity, and over a fifth of housewives buy biscuits, ready meals, ice cream and cheese. Two thirds believe it is important to eat healthily, but dieters and weight watchers remain the sectors most likely to buy healthier options.

But what is it all about? We look at how these foods can help or hinder your weightloss plan.

Preventing a false sense of security

Nutritionists warn that eating foods lower in fat and lower in calories may lull you into a false sense of security, causing you to actually eat more than you normally would. For instance instead of having one choc-chip cookie it may be tempting to have two, three or four if they are labelled as lower in fat. Although a normal choc-chip cookie is around 53 calories, an 85% fat-free one is still around 46 calories. Granted, a small saving of calories is there, but this food is still pretty caloric, particularly if eaten in excess.

So, if you're trying to lose weight your prime objective should be to always check out the calories and stick to your daily weightloss quota.

Making sense of the labels

Always double-check the calorie content of the product before you buy and try. If you want to be assured that you are buying the lowest calorie version, compare it to other brands, both standard and lower-fat/lower-calorie ranges.

On-pack information in the UK has generally become clearer due to the key recommendations by the IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) Nutrition Labeling Group.

Firstly, look for the Nutrition Information Box on the back of food packaging. This should clearly list energy (calories and kiloJoules), protein, carbohydrates, sugars, fat, saturates, fibre and sodium per 100g and often per serving.

Additional on-pack information can often be found, particularly on low-fat and low-calories foods, which clearly highlights fat per serving and calories per serving. Guideline Daily Amounts are also often used on packs to promote recommended daily calorie and fat intake. However, these guidelines are for average adults on a weight maintenance diet. Calorie and fat content for people following a weightloss programme should therefore be reduced according to your age, sex, size and how active you are.

On average, for weightloss, it is recommended 1,200-1,500 calories a day for women, and 1,500-1,800 calories a day for men. Your fat intake should be reduced to around 45-55g a day for women, and 55g-66g a day for men.

Low-calorie convenience foods - can they leave you wanting more?

The problem, is that many low-calorie convenience foods may, because of their size, not make you feel full and satisfied. This could then cause you to snack on other foods to fill you up, which can prevent weight loss.

Many people don't realise how easy it is to cook a low-calorie and low-fat option themselves. For instance a bowl of pasta with a low-fat sauce and a fresh salad can really fill you up - all for minimal calories. However, if you do occasionally tuck into low-fat or low-calorie savoury convenience foods try serving them with a salad or vegetables to help fill you up.

Look for healthier alternatives

Instead of fixating on low-fat or low-calorie variants of normal higher-fat and higher-calorie foods, why not look for and eat more foods that are naturally low in fat and calories?

People following a weightloss programme should be concerned about finding a healthy balanced diet for the future, and focusing on more easily accessible foods which we can put together to make a healthy meal. Although low-fat / low-calorie foods can serve a purpose for a small period of time as they may give you an idea on how to make your own healthy weightloss foods, foods aimed at dieters are generally quite expensive and can be financially draining in the long-term.

And, on a positive note ….

If you really fancy a snack, a savoury treat, a pudding or a ready-meal can be another option to the lower-fat and lower-calorie alternative, as long as you take the overall calories into consideration.

If eating a lower-fat or lower-calorie option is going to keep you on track with your weightloss programme, and keep you from feeling deprived, then they do have their merits. Low-fat dairy foods have a strong part to play in our diet. Without having a low-fat option many people may otherwise avoid certain dairy foods because of concern about high fat and calories, and may then begin to lack crucial nutrients like calcium.


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