Low-Fat Alternatives

It seems that many low-fat food items have increased the sugar content, for example, sauces, dressings, etc. Is it healthier to eat the regular higher-fat original or the higher-sugar, lower-fat version? Are there alternatives to this either/or dilemma? I have partially solved the issue by using the higher fat salad dressing or sauce, but cutting way back on the amount. Your thoughts or suggestions?


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    You are going to find a lot of differing opinions in response to this question. I will try to answer this from different perspectives. :)

    First, if weight loss is your goal, calories matter most. Most of the time, the sugar difference between a regular and low fat product is only 1 g; this is pretty insignificant but it can save you ~50 calories (which does add up).

    A recent trend is the belief that saturated fat is healthy and it's the carbs that are the problem. In reality, this is an oversimplified answer to a very complex issue. Saturated fat will cause an increase in certain blood lipids, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Since LDL and HDL are basically opposites of one another, it's been suggested that this is no big deal. BUT, the higher the LDL exposure over one's lifetime, the more opportunity there is for it to be taken into our artery walls. Also, saturated fat has been linked to insulin resistance, cognitive disorders, breast and prostate cancer, as well as inflammation. Finally, we've never seen any negative health outcomes when people lower their intake of saturated fat. As such, if there is an opportunity to lower your intake of saturated fat, I would take it.

    Now, sugar is very much demonized in our society. And while added sugar is something we should avoid, most people don't realize that many things, including whole grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and protein, are turned into sugar (glucose) in our body; this is the body's preferred source of fuel. However, added sugar can increase our triglycerides, cause inflammation, liver issues, and demands a lot of insulin.

    So, ultimately, I would recommend the following:
    1) Try to make as many products from scratch as possible
    2) Look for the lower calorie alternative
    3) Choose lower fat versions as long as the sugar only increases by 1-2 grams

    Hope this helps!

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
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