Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Weight Control
The low-fat binge
Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S., Northwest Regional Nutrition Specialist, Nodaway County, University of Missouri Extension
America is on a binge of no-fat and low-fat foods. But the
binge is not calorie free, and the result is that Americans are
eight pounds heavier than ten years ago. And one-third of us
are obese, up from one-fourth just ten years ago.
What’s happening? It all comes down to portion control and less
physical activity. If one devils food cake cookie is enough, you
don’t have permission to have two, three or four if they are no-fat.
The ingredient that replaces the fat is a carbohydrate, which is
full of calories, so if you read the labels comparing the fat
and no-fat versions you will most likely find that the calories
per serving are similar.
Is our obsession with fat-free foods a surprise? Not totally.
When non-nutritive sweeteners like NutraSweet or
Equal came on the market, consumers binged on them too. Instead
of seeing pounds drop from regular users, the pounds actually increased slowly.
The ingredient designed to be a help to those who wanted to enjoy
sweet foods but couldn’t because of diabetes has been used by others
as a license to eat more. Many thought they were trading off more
calories than they were. A tablespoon of sugar has 45 calories (15
Portion control and recognizing the recommended serving sizes
is the key to getting our diets under control — not fat-free or
For example, how much liquid does your juice glass hold? A serving
of juice is 3/4 cup. A typical short, fat juice glass holds 12 ounces
or 1½ cups, which is two servings. How much cereal does your
cereal bowl hold? A serving is equal to one ounce and the volume
varies from cereal to cereal so read the label.
Servings, according to the Food Guide Pyramid, mean portions
needed for a healthy diet, not eating episodes. When the food groups
were designed years ago they were designed to help us consume a
variety of foods. The Food Guide Pyramid also does that, but helps
us to avoid overeating if we follow the plan. Sticking to plain, simple
foods in reasonable portions is our best bet to get in control.
The more we rely on low-fat, non-fat and sugar-free foods to help
us maintain our weight or reach our diet goals, the more likely
we are to fail.
Last update: Tuesday, September 28, 2010