Sifting through the marketing jargon of descriptive labels on foods these days can leave even a nutritionist questioning which way to go.
Learn the lingo
Low or reduced:
Free, % free:
Justifications and false securities
Why might you use these products?
What to look for:
Tips to avoid the traps
- If something says fat free or sugar free don't assume it's also low in kilojoules or will help you lose weight. Fat free sweets contain so much sugar and a whopping amount of energy.
- The biggest trap with diet foods is overeating. This can be because of justifying the excess as 'OK because it’s diet food', not realising the significant kilojoules still in the food or eating more because they are not satisfying. Having occasional real treats is good for your soul and can even help weight loss. The deprivation of strict diets often leads to bingeing and blowing it. But tread lightly and use portion control.
- ‘Diet’ sweets may have no fat or sugar but what the *#$! are they made of, and would you want it in you? They generally taste really bad and won’t satisfy your sweet tooth, so eat something else anyway.
- With snacks usually made with a lot of fat and/or sugar such as chocolate, chips or ice cream, if you consider the reduced-fat or low-fat versions compare the nutritional information to the regular version and consider taste and how much you would eat of each. You may be better off with less of the real thing.
- Read, read, read the nutritional panels every time. Make conscious informed choices. Don't automatically believe what you’re told and consider the descriptive terms on the front as a guide, not an absolute truth. Question everything and find out the answers. Your health is worth it.
- Remember the meanings of the terms may differ so find out if the claim means it is healthy for you and will help with your overall goals.
- Consider why you would choose processed products, over natural foods. Specially formulated and promoted 'diet' foods are not cheap and you and your budget can be much healthier by filling your diet with more foods without labels at all such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Using diet foods does not help establish good eating habits which is really the key to long term weight loss and health. They can help with short term energy reduction if used properly but what then? You stay on the diet products for good, go back to what you ate before and risk weight gain or find new, healthier ways to eat. I'd go with the last option first and skip the rest of it.
- Some low-fat foods are useful as part of a healthy diet for adults. Choosing skim, low-fat or fat-reduced dairy lets you get more of what you need-calcium and protein - and less of what you don't (fat). Getting used to the taste of low-fat dairy is easy and worth it to trim the kilojoules.
- Don't give low-fat, light or other diet products to young children, toddlers or babies unless under specific medical advice.
- Avoid foods with artificial additives replacing fats and sugars. Opt for more natural foods and less processing.