Why We Avoid Low-Fat Products

When I first learned that the whole low-fat campaign was pretty much a hoax I was absolutely shocked as well. For years I was right there on that bandwagon bingeing on everything from low-fat Snackwells cookies to fat-free flavored yogurt to low-fat ice cream. And as it turns out, according to Michael Pollan, “We’ve gotten fat on low-fat products.”

photo credit: zeer.com

Here’s a direct quote from Pollan’s book Food Rules that explains it all:

The forty-year-old campaign to create low-fat and nonfat versions of traditional foods has been a failure: We’ve gotten fat on low-fat products. Why? Because removing the fat from foods doesn’t necessarily make them nonfattening. Carbohydrates can also make you fat, and many low- and nonfat foods boost the sugars to make up for the loss of flavor … You’re better off eating the real thing in moderation than bingeing on “lite” food products packed with sugars and salt.

Another New York Times bestselling author, Mark Bittman, agrees in his book Food Matters. He says, “The low-fat craze caused millions, maybe tens of millions, of Americans actually to gain weight, because they were reaching for ‘low-fat’ but high-calorie carbs.” And right on cue directly from Pollan’s In Defense of Food:

At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, Hold on just a minute. Are you really saying the whole low-fat deal was bogus? But my supermarket is still packed with low-fat this and no-cholesterol that! My doctor is still on me about my cholesterol and telling me to switch to low-fat everything. I was flabbergasted at the news too, because no one in charge – not in government, not in the public health community – has dared to come out and announce: Um, you know everything we’ve been telling you for the last thirty years about the links between dietary fat and heart disease? And fat and cancer? And fat and fat? Well, this just in: It now appears that none of it was true. We sincerely regret the error.

So let’s put the low-fat craze behind us and move forward by embracing the right portions of real food and real food only. No more faked low-fat products where according to Pollan, “fats in things like sour cream and yogurt are replaced with hydrogenated oils” and “the cream in ‘whipped cream’ and ‘coffee creamer’ are replaced with corn starch.”

And just to be clear this applies to all reduced fat products, including milk. When the fat is removed from dairy products like milk some of the beneficial nutrients are lost with the fat as well. We just recently switched to whole milk ourselves, and I was honestly a little scared. I drank skim milk up until last year after all! But along with reducing our overall consumption of milk it has actually been a surprisingly smooth transition for us. And after learning the shocking truth behind what we’ve been told for so many years…I’ve never looked at another low-fat product the same again.

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264 thoughts on “Why We Avoid Low-Fat Products”

  1. mccartygc@gci.net

    Lisa- I’ve been drinking lactaid free low fat milk. It’s made a huge difference in my digestive.
    Should I switch to the whole version lactaid free?

  2. This looks like a plan I can do! It’s what I’ve been looking for. A little scared because I need to lose weight also. I’ve always used half and half and either turbanado sugar or flavored syrup in coffee. What do you suggest for a healthier but still creamy and a little sweet?

  3. I like the way you think. I’m also trying to avoid refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Also artificial colors, flavors and sweeteners. I try to avoid partially hydrogenated oils (aks trans fat). I don’t like the idea of farmed raised meats. I prefer grass fed beef, wild cought fish and cage free poultry. I reall try to stay away from man-made chemicals highly processed foods, fast foods and junk foods. I like to buy organic and GMO free foods.

  4. I get the fat thing, but I have one question. I have read that the kind of fat matters. We should be getting most of our fat from plants – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – rather than the saturated fats found in animal products. Problem for me is I love butter and cream. Is it still true we should reduce the consumption of saturated fat?

  5. I was raised on Laurel’s Kitchen, but admit getting caught up in the low-fat/no-fat craze for a while. One thing I have never given up though is making my own yogurt, usually with 2% no growth hormones milk. Now that we are switching to whole milk and trying to use organic when possible, I can only get organic milk that is ultra-pasteurized. Can you make yogurt with ultra-pasteurized milk? I thought that removed all the good bacteria. What do you suggest is the best solution?

  6. Well this is interesting because my problem with milk is that I find 2% or higher just takes like glue on it’s own. My favourite has always been skim with the exception of chocolate being 1% and even 1% white is ok because I was raised on it but now I want to take the pledge and am at odds with what to do.

  7. We’re all in! We’ve been doing each week and compounding and are loving it so far! The hardest one for us has been no fast food. We’re an on-the-go family and I need more ideas for simple, healthy food to bring with us. Any suggestions?

  8. Jennifer Aldrich

    We are a 2 adult and 3 child family (10, 6 and 4) and we are all in. My husband was shocked about the milk, but is slowly coming around. My 10 year old, a former trix yogurt eater, now loves whole milk yogurt with maple syrup and vanilla

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