Ditch the fat-free sugar-free foods!

Would you be shocked if I told you to get rid of all of your fat-free, sugar-free food you have in your pantry?  Some of you may already know this and others may find this surprising especially coming from a dietitian!  To be honest I have never been a fan of the fat free, sugar free craze that has become a mainstay on our grocery shelves.

The reasons are numerous.

First, when I assess whether or not a product is something I want to try, I look at the ingredient list to see what is in it.  If I can’t pronounce what the ingredient is and know where it comes from I generally choose not to buy the product.  I want to know that what I’m putting into my body was made using whole foods and not synthesized in some lab.

Second, while sugar and high fructose corn syrup have been blamed for the rise in obesity rates, interestingly when you take a look at epidemiologic research that dates as far back as the 80’s you will find sugar free products have contributed to our expanding waste line as well (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). There are several theories about how this happens.  One is that when we consume fat free or sugar free products we assume they are healthier for us and we inevitably eat more.  Have you ever found yourself doing this?  Second, some researchers have found artificial sweeteners bypass the centre in our brain responsible for satisfaction.  This ends up causing us to eat until we reach our satisfaction threshold (6,7).

Fat free products are too good to be true as well.  When the fat is removed producers need to find ingredients that will provide the silky, smooth satisfying taste that fat provides. Cellulose gum is wood filler and is a common ingredient in a lot of fat free products. You can find it in your favorite frozen fat free desserts, fat free baking products, fat free yogurts, even in your shredded cheese!

Real food is what our body is made to digest and what our body needs to maintain our health.  Non-food based ingredients do not belong in our food supply.


So the first step to cleaning out your pantry (August’s Facebook goal) is to ditch the fake food.

  • Natural ingredients are listed as such and are recognizable and words we can pronounce.
  • Non-food based chemicals are generally words most of us can’t pronounce and are produced in a lab.
  • Avoid buying a product because of the nutrition claim listed on the label.

What about milk?  Skim, 1% and 2% milk are fine to drink; they simply have had fat skimmed off them to have lower amounts compared to homogenized milk. 0% milk fat Greek yogurt is also a product I recommend as it is naturally processed using skim milk (it should not contain the thickeners that are added to other fat free yogurts.)

If you have any items in your pantry that you’re not sure about, comment below and I’d be happy to give you my opinion.




  1. Qing Yang: Gain weigh by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings.   Yale J Biol Med; June 2010: 83(2): 101-108
  2. Fowler SP et al. Fueling the obesity epidemic? Artificially sweetened beverage use and long-term weight fain.  Obesity 2008;16:1894-1900
  3. Stellman SD, Garfinkel L. Artificial sweetener use and one-year weight change among women.  Prev Med. 1986;15:195-202
  4. Colditz GA et al.  Patterns of weight change and their relation to diet in a cohort of healthy women.  Am J Clin Nurt. 1990;51:1100-1105
  5. Forshee RA, Storey ML.  Total beverage consumption and beverage choices among children and adolescents.  Int J Food Sci Nutr 2003;54:297-307
  6. Haase L, et al. Cortical activation in response to pure taste stimuli during the physiological states of hunger and satiety.  NeuroImage.  2009; 44:1008-1021
  7. Smeets et al. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of human hypothalamic responses to seet taste and calories.  Am J Clin Nutr 2005; 82:1011-1016