How Does the FDA Define Low Fat?

Close-up of nutritional label.
Close-up of nutritional label. (Image: Aleksandar Stojanov/iStock/Getty Images)

When something says “low fat,” it isn’t just a marketing ploy to lure you in. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration actually has strict guidelines manufacturers have to follow before putting such wordage on their packaging. If a food is labeled “low fat,” it must have 3 grams of fat or less per serving. However, you might see some similar terms that have their own special meanings.

Similar Terminology

Some foods are labeled “fat free.” This is misleading, though, because it doesn’t actually mean that the food doesn’t have fat. It just means that you’ll get 0.5 gram of fat or less from each serving. If you're snacking on fat-free fare, watch your portion size -- consuming more than one serving can mean you're eating more fat than you think, as a 1/2 gram of fat per serving can add up. Foods can also be labeled as “reduced fat” or “less fat,” which both have the same meanings. In these cases, the product has at least 25 percent less fat than the typical portion of the regular variety of the food. As an example, if a regular frozen dinner has 10 grams of fat, one that is labeled “reduced fat” or “less fat” must have no more than 7.5 grams of fat.

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