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Healthy Living

Balancing Your "Fat Free" Choices

Chances are, you're among the many people who eat more fat than they need. As one way to help curb your fat intake, watch for more "fat free" foods on the market thanks to new Health Canada rules defining their make-up.

According to these rules, you'll find less than half a gram of fat in a serving of a "fat free" product. This is so little fat that nutrition experts consider it insignificant. In fact, it's about the same amount as in most fruits, the perfect "fat free" snack.

Investing Your Fat Quota

On average, men should aim for no more than 80 to 90 grams of fat daily; the quota for most women is 60 to 65 grams. "Fat free" products can help you invest your fat quota more wisely.

A slice of "fat free" cheese adds a tasty touch to a ham sandwich, with an added calcium bonus. "Fat free" mayonnaise can make potato salad a better complement to your not-so-lean BBQ fare.

But there's no free lunch. It's easy to overestimate the fat savings and make unbalanced trade-offs. The 25 grams of fat in that slice of pecan pie you're eyeing will more than offset the 10 grams of fat you saved by using the "fat free" mayonnaise.

"Fat Free" Is Not "Calorie Free"

One third of Canadian adults are overweight, putting their health at risk. "Fat free" products, although offering important fat savings, are no magic bullet to a healthy weight - "fat free" doesn't mean "calorie free". Calories still count, and some "fat free" products will provide more calorie savings than others.

Even so, fat and calories should not be your only criteria in choosing foods. Keep your focus on the variety of the food guide rainbow, and balance your energy intake with physical activities you enjoy.

"Fat Free" Label Savvy

In a nutshell, the front of a food package is where you're likely to find "fat free" highlighted. If so, you can trust that a serving of the product has almost no fat, because all such claims are well controlled.

The amount of fat per serving must also appear on the label, but for "fat free" products you can think of it as almost zero. You don't need to get hung up on the numbers in this case; there's no real difference between 0.1 and 0.4 grams of fat.

Check out the label for the rest of the story, though. This includes the serving size, which is always given, and the calorie content, which is not required but often provided. Remember, if you eat twice the serving size amount, the calories and other nutrients double as well.

Being informed gives you true freedom to make balanced choices.

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