Do labels like fat free, low fat, reduced fat, light, more, less, high and low make your head spin as you toss food into your carriage?What does it all mean? Which is best? Food labels can be really confusing so I hope I can make it a little easier for you. Food manufacturers are required to strictly stick to regulations about what can and can’t be printed on food labels. The following food labeling terms describe the level of a nutrient in food:

Free: A product contains no amount of, or only a trivial amount of, one of the following:   fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugars and calories.

You may also see free foods labeled “without,” “no” and “zero.”
These are the same as “free.”

Calorie-Free –  fewer than 5 calories per serving.

Sugar-Free –  less than . 5 grams per serving.

Fat-Free –  less than . 5 grams per serving


Low: Foods that can be eaten frequently without exceeding dietary guidelines for one or more of the following:  fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories.  The following describe what is considered “low” for each component.

Low fat –  3 grams or less per serving.

Low saturated fat – 1 gram or less per serving.

Low sodium – 140 milligrams or less per serving.

Very low sodium –  35 milligrams or less per serving.

Low calorie –  40 calories or less per serving. Low foods are healthful and help keep calories down.


Lean and Extra Lean: These terms can be used to describe the fat content of meat, poultry, seafood and game meats.

Lean –  less than 10 grams of fat, 4. 5 or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving and per 100 grams

Extra Lean — less than 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams cholesterol per serving and per 100 grams.


High: This term can be used if the food contains 20 percent or more of the daily value for a particular nutrient in a serving.

Good Source: These terms mean that one serving of a food contains 10-19 percent of the Daily Value for a particular nutrient. For example, orange juice containers may say “good source of Vitamin C.

Reduced: This term means that an altered product contains at least 25 percent less calories as compared to the regular product.
So, if the box of cookies you are picking up says 95 percent fat-free, it must contain 5 grams of fat per 100 grams.

Hopefully this didn’t confuse you more and gives you a clearer idea of reading labels your next trip to the supermarket. But as always, try sticking with lower sugar, higher protein sources of food unless it is your cheat day 🙂


Written By    Dean Rafferty      on 12/13/12