What do low-fat and fat-free food labels mean?

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

Fat free written on a food label means there is such a low amount of fat that it will not have an effect on your body. Fat free is less than .5 grams fat/serving. An item labeled as low will indicate a specific amount defined for each nutrient. A low fat food will have 3 g fat or less /serving. Check the nutrition facts portion of the label to read exactly how much fat is in the item.

Dr. Rovenia Brock, PhD
Nutrition & Dietetics

Watch as nutritionist Dr. Rovenia Brock explains what low-fat and fat-free labeling on food packages means to the consumer and what you should look out for.

Annemarie Colbin
Nutrition & Dietetics
They mean I would never buy those foods.

Things to ask: 
  • Does the food normally have no fat or little fat? (e.g. stock). If so, the label is meaningless.
  • Does the food normally have a lot of fat? (e.g., mayonnaise, sour cream). If so, what was the fat replaced with? 
Read the list of ingredients carefully -- there is usually weird of non-food ingredients to fake out the palate. I would rather eat the mayonnaise. Fat, in modest amounts, is necessary for our physiology.
  • Low fat means that a food must have 3 grams or less of fat per serving.
  • Fat free means that a food has less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.
  • Low saturated fat means that a food has 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving and not more than 15% of its calories come from saturated fat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.