Fat-Free vs. Sugar-free

Fat Free. I know it sounds good but let me really explain to you what a fat free/low fat food really means. When a food product is reduced in fat they also take away a lot of what gives that food some flavor. In order to compensate for this flavor loss something has to be added. Typically that something is SUGAR!! For example, let's compare peanut butter. Regular peanut butter is approximately 16 grams of fat and 7 grams of carbs per serving. Reduced fat is 12 grams of fat and 16 grams of carbs! You only spare 4 grams of fat but gain 9 grams of carbs!! In some foods, like the low fat cheeses, they add Sodium to add back flavor. If you have high blood pressure you should be watching your sodium intake(which should be in the less than 2000mg range) and one reduced fat cheese stick can have up to 430 mg of sodium! So when a food is low fat or fat free you have to assume that they have added back something to help the food be palatable. That something can be sabotaging your efforts to loose or maintain your weight. So to oversimplify, low fat or fat free can mean high carb or high sodium.

Sugar Free. When sugar is removed from a food it is typically replaced with a sugar substitute. So unlike the fat free or low fat food there is not necessarily a lot of other stuff added back to help keep the food palatable. Let's look at Coffee Creamers. Regular French Vanilla Creamer has 30 cal,1.5 grams of fat and 5 grams of carbs per tbsp. Sugar free has 20 cal, 2 gm of fat , 1 gram of carbs. Fat free has 30 cal, 0 grams of fat and 7 grams of carbs!! Most sugar free foods are simply missing the sugar and have added sugar substitutes. Now I know you have read or heard a lot of bad press about sugar substitutes and how they have been linked to weight gain and obesity. It is not that the sugar substitute itself caused weight gain, but that people tend to eat more calories since they are not drinking calories. So to oversimplify, sugar free means sugar substitute but not necessarily added fat.

So which is better? You may think that if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol issues that you should stick with the low fat/fat free plan. But you would be wrong. You may think that you want to lose that little muffin top and that leaning out your calories would get you there. You would be wrong again. The truth of the matter is that it is not the dietary fat that keeps your love handles hanging on or your cholesterol levels elevated. It is the CARBS!!!! And sugar my friend, is the mother of all carbs! So next time you are out at your local grocer and trying to decide whether you should buy the low fat or sugar free item, go with the sugar free. I know it is sooo confusing. There is so much misinformation out there in the media, but after working with weight loss patients for over three years and having poured over literature and journals I have learned a few things, sugar free is the way to.