Myth: “Low-fat” or “fat-free” means no calories.
Fact: A serving of low-fat or fat-free food may be lower in calories than a serving of the full-fat product. But many processed low-fat or fat-free foods have just as many calories as the full-fat versions of the same foods—or even more calories. These foods may contain added flour, salt, starch, or sugar to improve flavor and texture after fat is removed. These items add calories.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nutrition Facts label appears on most packaged foods (see Figure 1). It tells you how many calories and servings are in a box or can. The serving size varies from product to product.
A portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package, or at home. Sometimes the serving size and portion size match; sometimes they do not.
You can use the Nutrition Facts label
- to track your calorie intake and number of servings
- to make healthy food choices by serving smaller portions and selecting items lower in fats, salt, and sugar and higher in fiber and vitamins
|Limit these Nutrients: Fats, Cholesterol, and Sodium|
|Get Enough of these Nutrients: Carbohydrates, Protien, and Vitamins and Minerals|
Myth: Fast foods are always an unhealthy choice. You should not eat them when dieting.
Fact: Many fast foods are unhealthy and may affect weight gain. However, if you do eat fast food, choose menu options with care. Both at home and away, choose healthy foods that are nutrient rich, low in calories, and small in portion size.
TIP: To choose healthy, low-calorie options, check the nutrition facts. These are often offered on the menu or on restaurant websites. And know that the nutrition facts often do not include sauces and extras. Try these tips:
- Avoid “value” combo meals, which tend to have more calories than you need in one meal.
- Choose fresh fruit items or nonfat yogurt for dessert.
- Limit your use of toppings that are high in fat and calories, such as bacon, cheese, regular mayonnaise, salad dressings, and tartar sauce.
- Pick steamed or baked items over fried ones.
- Sip on water or fat-free milk instead of soda.