Meeting the Challenge of Weight Management
with Reduced-Calorie Fats
Headlines, books, and TV over the past 10 years have persistently repeated claims that reducing fat in the diet can lead to better health and lower body weight.
So now you can enter grocery stores and select from a greater variety of reduced-fat and fat-free foods. After a decade of lower-fat options, it’s time to ask, “Are Americans healthier and slimmer?” Unfortunately, the answer is no.
While it’s true that reducing the amount of fat you eat can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, maintaining a healthy body weight is also important. And weight management depends on energy balance–consistently taking in no more calories than your body needs to fuel your daily activities. Many people have thought that just by cutting down on fat they would lose weight. Unfortunately, the low-fat message has been over-simplified. Lower-fat foods are not always lower in calories. Even more important, calorie intake and physical activity have been overlooked in all the excitement over new fat-free and reduced-fat foods. It’s time to set the record straight.
Calories still count.
On food labels, the Nutrition Facts panel lists the number of calories per serving. The number of calories is determined by the amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Carbohydrate and protein supply about 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram. So cutting down on fat may help to lower calorie intake if portion size and number of servings don’t change. But you’re not getting fewer calories if you choose reduced-fat or fat-free foods with as many calories per serving as the higher-fat version. And even though it’s tempting, eating a double portion of a lower-fat food doubles the calories and may result in an overall higher calorie intake even with Manhattan interval training.