Know Your Labels: Fat Terms

For this “Know Your Label” post I wanted to talk about the different labels about fats and what they mean. It’s important to know because if you are trying to watch your fat intake for weight loss, heart health, or any other concern, you need to know what these labels mean and not take it for granted that it’s healthy for your because it’s “reduced fat”. Things can start to get confusing when they start adding in percentages and then you have the “lean” and “extra lean”. What do these mean? Also, cholesterol terms I’m putting in a different post. These can be put together, but since the list is so long for the fat terms, I’m just sticking with “fat”.

Different Fats

This can be a long discussion, but here is a simple breakdown.

Unsaturated Fats: fats that stay liquid at room temperature (olive oil, vegetable oil). These are made of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They can also be known as your Omega fats.

Saturated Fats: fats that are solid at room temperature (butter, coconut oil)

Trans Fats: manufactured fats – never a healthy fat and needs to be as low as possible or avoided

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash
Fat Terms & Meanings

Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of total fat per serving

Saturated Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of saturated fat per serving

Trans Fat-Free: Less than 0.5 g of trans fat and less than 0.5 g saturated fat per serving

Low-Fat: 3 g or less total fat per serving

Low Saturated-Fat: 1 g or less saturated fat per serving & less than 0.5 g trans fat per serving

Less Saturated-Fat: At least 25% less saturated fat and trans fat combined than the comparison

Here is where it gets interesting… get ready for some math.

% Fat-Free: An indication of the amount of a food’s weight that is fat-free. This can only be used on foods that are low-fat or fat-free to begin with and must reflect the amount of fat in 100 g.

Example: A food that weights 100 g with 3 g of fat can be labeled as “97% Fat Free”.

***It is the amount of the foods weight that is fat free, not the calories.

Example: If the same 100 g food applies here. Say that food is 100 calories with 3 g of fat. The food can technically be labeled low fat & with it being 100 g in weight can technically be called 97% fat free. Sounds pretty good. However, if the food is only 100 calories, with 3 g of fat (1 g of fat = 9 calories, so 3 x 9 = 27 calories) 27/100 calories are from fat. Which means 27% of the calories from that food is fat. If you are needing other Macro-Nutrients, you might want to check the nutrition label first.

If you are trying to eat a low fat diet, then finding foods that are “fat free” and “low fat” should be a good indication that what you are eating will go along with your diet. Just be aware of serving sizes. The “% fat free” can be a little misleading. Make sure to check the nutrition label before deciding to buy these to make sure you are staying within the limits you think you are.

Lean & Extra Lean

These describe the fat content of meat and poultry products.

Lean: Less than 10 g of fat, 4.5 g saturated fat and trans fat combined, and less than 95 mg cholesterol.

Extra Lean: Less than 5 g of fat, 2 g of saturated fat and trans fat combined, and less than 95 mg cholesterol.

Bottom Line

Being informed about what you are buying is a huge deal. And whether you are watching the amount of fat in your diet because of weight loss, lowering your cholesterol, etc. it’s important to read the nutrition label no matter what the front of the product may say. And remember to always check the serving size. It might be less than what you are actually going to use it for.


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