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Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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What Does "Light" Mean?

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Are you as confused as I am when you are looking at packages and food labels? This is what I do for a living and even I can get confused! When you see the words "light" or "fat free" what does that really mean? Here is a quick look at the definitions from the Food and Drug Administration.

Light: probably the most confusing. It can mean either: 50% less fat than original, 1/3 fewer calories, OR 50% less sodium. Light can also refer to color or texture (like light brown sugar) which has nothing to do with it being healthier.

Fat and Cholesterol
Reduced Fat: at least 25% fewer grams of fat than full fat version
Low Fat: 3 grams of fat or less per serving
Fat Free: Less than 0.5 grams fat per serving
Trans Fat Free: Less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving
Cholesterol free: 2 mg of cholesterol or less AND 2 grams or less of saturated fat. This one is interesting because it is really saturated fat and trans fat that raise cholesterol. So if something has no cholesterol but a ton of saturated fat, it can't label itself as cholesterol free.

Calories
Low Calorie: 40 calories or less per serving
Calorie Free: Less than 5 calories per serving

Sodium
Low Sodium: 140 mg or less per serving
Very Low Sodium: Less than 35 mg per serving
Sodium Free: Less than 5 mg per serving

Nutrients
Good source: Must contain 10-19% of that nutrient (eg Good Source of Calcium must have at least 10-19% of calcium per serving)
High: Must have 20% or more of that nutrient
Sugar
Sugar Free: Less than 0.5 grams sugar
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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