Beware of the fat-free promise

Written by Vicki Foord (Accredited Practising Dietitian)

Do you feel overwhelmed by the enormous amounts of low-fat or no-fat products in the supermarket? What does it actually mean when a product is labelled as “low-fat” or “fat-free”. Some manufacturers make claims that are designed to attract your attention and make you choose their product over others. But be aware! Just because a product is labelled as ‘low-fat” it doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you!

Here’s the truth about low-fat foods!

Reduced Fat 

This means the food must contain at least 25% less fat than the original product. But don’t be misled, as this means the product still contains around 75% fat. 

97% Fat Free

This really means the product contains 3% fat. Manufactures like to use the “97% Fat Free” nutrition claim as it sounds heathier and much more appealing to the consumer. 

Low Fat

To make the “low-fat” claim, the product must contain less than 3 % fat for solids and less than 1.5% for liquids. Please be aware, some “low-fat” products could contain higher amount of sugar. Manufacturers would often add more sugar to low-fat foods to enhance the flavour and texture of a product. 

No Fat

This means a product must contain less than 1% fat. Studies have shown when people were given foods labelled as “no-fat” or “low-fat”, they ate 25 – 44% more than the foods that were label as regular fat. The “halo” effect meant people were more likely to supersize their portions as “fat-free” foods are often thought of as “guilt-free”.  

Label claims are often misleading, the most accurate way to identify a healthy food product is by reading the nutrition information panel (located at the back of the food package). 

Nutrition Information Panel   

Provides a simple means of identifying and choosing healthier food options. It is also used to compare the nutritional content between two similar products (using the per 100g column). 

To compare food products and select healthy food choices, the following criteria is applied.

It is important to understand how easy it is to be persuaded by the food industry and how their labelling can affect our food behaviours.

A few helpful label reading tips can make your shopping trip a lot easier. Reading the food label can increase your knowledge about what nutritional information to look out for – this will enable you to select healthier food choices and not be misled by nutrition claims. 


Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute. Label Reading [education resource]. 2015. Available from

Dietitians Association of Australia. What does low fat mean? [cited 2017 October 1st]. Available :

Food Watch. Food labels: fat-free or guilt-free? [cited 2017 October 1st]. Available:

Healthy Food Guide. Are low-fat products making us fat? [cited 2017 October 1st].