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Diet and Nutrition

Fat free products vs. sugar free products

05/31/2007

Question:

What is the difference between Fat Free products and Sugar Free products? What is better if I am trying to loose weight?

Answer:

Fat free products have less than .5 gram fat in a serving. Sugar free products have no added sugars (such as sucrose-table sugar, honey, brown sugar, corn syrup, etc), but can have natural sugars (found in fruits, fruit juice concentrates).

Fat free products may have substitutes in them to mimic the mouth feel of fat or some other fat quality (volume, whipability, etc). These substitutes sometimes provide calories at a lower calorie/gram level than fat does (eg Oatrim) or may be calorie free (eg Olestra) Sugar free products may have other food components in them that provide sweetness. Some of these sweeteners are non-nurtitive/non-caloric (eg saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, aspartame) or provide some calories (sugar alcohols - sorbitol, mannitol, lactitol, xylitol, etc). The sugar substitutes that are sugar alcohols do not promote tooth decay, but may cause intestinal upset in some people when eaten in excess.

When using fat free and sugar free products for weight control, the bottom line is going to be how many calories are in a serving. Many times, if sugar is reduced, fat may be increased to compensate for some of the other qualities sugar has besides sweetness (tenderizing, bulking). Likewise, if fat is reduced sugar may be increased to compensate for the bulking and tenderizing effects that fat has. Also, in reduced sugar products the use of fruit juice concentrate may keep the carbohydrate level and calorie level the same as in the original product containing table sugar. Each product needs to be evaluated individually.

In some cases, the natural, unengineered product in a smaller portion size may be your best choice. For instance, I would use 1 teaspoon less of the original, natural peanut butter rather than use a reduced fat peanut butter.

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Response by:

Sharron   Coplin, MS, RD, LD Sharron Coplin, MS, RD, LD
Former Lecturer
Food & Nutrition
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University