The skinny on low-fat, no-fat foods

By Marilynn Preston

Even smart people still think that eating low- or no-fat foods is a healthy way to lose weight. It’s not true.

Yes, we were led to believe it was true for many years, and during those low-fat, no-fat years the obesity rate in America skyrocketed. Why? First, because scientists who studied fat and metabolism and obesity didn’t know that the body needs healthy fats to function properly. Oops. It turns out that if you feed your body fake fat or deprive it of healthy fat, it rebels by packing on the pounds, especially around the belly.

The second problem – so cruel, so corporate – is that the low-fat, no-fat items offered up by food manufacturers are loaded with sugar in order to taste better, richer, more satisfying. Addiction is also built-in. Out with the fat, in with the high fructose corn syrup, which turns out to have a devastating effect on the liver, not to mention our metabolism, our waistlines, and our wellness.

All of which led nutrition expert and dietician Franziska Spritzler to come up with this astonishing list of 10 low-fat foods that promote weight gain but are actually bad for you. Don’t stop at shock. Take action.

If you can pivot to appropriate amounts of real fat and real food, you’ll be taking a giant step forward in preventing all sorts of serious health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

1. Low-fat sweetened breakfast 

Most commercial cereals are loaded with sugar. Dear reader, please read the labels. Granola may sound synonymous with good health and eternal life, but low-fat granola can have 14 grams of sugar or more for half a cup – and who stops at half a cup?

2. Low-fat flavored coffee drinks
Next time you’re tempted to order the refreshing 16-ounce mocha drink with only 2 grams of fat, think again. It could have a belly-blooming 33 grams of sugar.

3. Low-fat flavored yogurt
Just because it’s yogurt doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Most low-fat and non-fat yogurts should be in the dessert section with the cakes and cookies. An 8-ounce cup of fruit-flavored non-fat yogurt can have 47 grams of sugar, which is nearly 12 teaspoons. Plain yogurt made from whole milk is the surprising healthier choice. (Add your own fruit.)

4. Low-fat salad dressing
Time to give up your fat-free Italian dressing. The good news is that olive oil is really good for you, and it’s a delicious way to dress your salads and your veggies, without any of the sugar, chemicals or additives.

5. Reduced-fat peanut butter
You’re much better off with the real thing, containing just peanuts and some salt. The reduced-fat kind is high in sugar, especially HFCS, now known to be a cousin of the devil.

6. Low-fat muffins 

Avoid these guys, especially the ones as big as your head. Even a small low-fat blueberry muffin has 19 grams of sugar. Muffins typically are a high-glycemic-index food that raise blood sugar quickly and may actually increase the hunger that makes you overeat and gain weight. See how cruel this low-fat, no-fat scam is?

7. Low-fat frozen yogurt
It’s better for you than ice cream, right? Sweet dreams. Most non-fat frozen yogurts are packed with sugar, and because you think you’re eating a healthy choice, you tend to eat a bigger portion.

8. Low-fat cookies 

You might as well eat the real thing. A low-fat, no-fat cookie is often a taste-free cookie, but still loaded with sugar and additives. Yuck.

9. Low-fat cereal bars
These are marketed as a healthy, on-the-go snack for busy people. But you’re not too busy to read the labels. They are sugar bombs, very low in fiber and protein.

10. Low-fat sandwich spreads
But isn’t a low-fat margarine spread healthier than butter? No! We’ve been snookered, fooled and lied to. These low- or no-fat spreads are highly processed, made from unhealthy vegetable oils and often contain the dreaded trans fats.

I know this is a lot to take on board, but here it is, plain and simple: low-fat, no-fat foods are not the healthy choices we all once thought they were. Unprocessed, real food is the way to go. Class dismissed.

Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle expert, well being coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website,, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at and

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