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Understanding Food Labels

While food shopping, you will no doubt see products labeled as “fat free” or “lite.” What do these labels really mean, and can you trust them?

Food manufacturers are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to meet certain requirements before a product can be labeled a particular way. Understanding the meaning of these labels can help you make healthy decisions the next time you are at the grocery store.

Free

  • Calorie-free: fewer than 5 calories per serving
  • Fat Free: less than 0.5g of fat per serving
  • Trans Fat Free: less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving
  • Cholesterol Free: less than 2mg per serving and 2g or less saturated fat per serving

Low

  • Low fat: less than 3 grams of fat per serving
  • Low Saturated Fat: 1g or less and 15% or less of calories from saturated fat
  • Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving
  • Low Cholesterol: 20mg or less per serving and 2g or less saturated fat per serving

Reduced

  • Reduced fat: 25% less fat than the same regular brand

Light/Lite

  • Light: 50% less fat than the same regular product.

Lean

  • Lean: less than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving
  • Extra lean: less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving

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