Always read the label: How low fat can still mean high calories (and most of us don't know the meaning of 'light' food options)
Study found many products have minimal differences'Little benefit in choosing low-fat options', Which said Most people don't know meaning of 'reduced fat'
23:48 GMT, 19 September 2012
Many foods marketed as ‘low in fat’ contain the same number of calories as the standard options – and some have more sugar, a study has found.
A survey by Which found that six out of ten consumers eat low-fat and light products several times a week, thinking they are a healthier option.
But many of the products have minimal differences in calorie content compared to their standard counterparts and some are still rated as red under the traffic light labelling system.
Comparisons: A standard McVitie's chocolate digestive biscuit contained 85 calories while a 'light' one had 77, the study found (file picture)
A ‘snapshot sample’ of 12 low-fat, reduced and light products found there was little benefit in choosing them over normal products, the consumer group said.
A standard McVitie’s chocolate digestive biscuit contained 85 calories while a ‘light’ one had 77.
The difference of eight calories could be burned off in less than a minute of swimming or running, it found.
A Tesco low-fat yoghurt had more calories per pot at 130 than a standard Activia version at 123, while the Tesco option contained more sugar.
It had 20.2g – more than four teaspoons – compared with the 16.9g in the Activia pot.
The high fat and saturated fat content of cheese meant that Cathedral City lighter cheddar was still given a red rating under the traffic light system.
Decisions: A Tesco low-fat yoghurt had more calories per pot at 130 than a standard Activia version at 123, while the Tesco option had more sugar (file)
Which found most consumers did not know the meaning of the terms ‘reduced fat’ and ‘light’.
A survey of 1,005 shoppers found only 16 per cent of people correctly identified that these products have to contain 30 per cent less fat than the standard alternative.
Labelling regulations define ‘low fat’ as containing less than 3 per cent fat, and the terms ‘reduced fat’, ‘light’ and ‘lite’ mean products contain 30 per cent less fat than the standard or original product.
More than 20g of fat per 100g makes a product high in fat.
Which executive director Richard Lloyd said: ‘Consumers are choosing low-fat and light options believing them to be a healthier choice.
‘But our research has found that in many cases they’re just not living up to their healthy image.’
He added: ‘Our advice to consumers is to read the nutritional labels carefully.’
Which is campaigning for clearer labelling on food and is calling for Morrisons and Iceland to join other supermarkets in using the traffic light labelling system.