8 Times You Shouldn't Pick the Fat-Free Option

By , By Lexi Petronis, of Woman's Day

When to Buy Full-Fat

When you’re at the grocery store and two options are staring you down—one that says “reduced fat” and one that’s unapologetically full-fat—choosing the less fattening option is a no-brainer, right? Not so fast! “Just because a product is labeled ‘fat-free’ or ‘lowfat’ doesn't mean it’s healthier or even lower in calories,” says Jared Koch, a nutritionist in New York and the founder of Clean Plates. “In fact, most lowfat or fat-free foods will have sugar and chemicals to make up for the loss in taste, which renders them poor nutritional choices.”

Plus, our bodies need healthy fat in our food to keep our cell walls strong, absorb important vitamins and regulate our hormones. Taking away that fat and adding in chemicals can have another unexpected result: Franken-foods that don’t cook the way they should, or crumble up when they shouldn’t. Here are eight full-fat foods that are actually better for you than their reduced-fat or nonfat relatives. 

Salad Dressing

You might think that a salad filled with low-calorie, lowfat veggies would find its match in a low-calorie, lowfat dressing. The opposite is true, though. Researchers from Purdue University found that while fat-free dressings are lower in calories than fat-based dressings, they block absorption of fruits’ and veggies’ nutrients, like carotenoids which protect your body’s cells. According to the study, dressings with monounsaturated fats (from canola and olive oil, for instance) boosted the absorption of the veggies’ carotenoids. Dressings made with polyunsaturated fat (from soybean oil) and saturated fat (from plain old butter) helped absorption, too, but it takes more dressing to reap the rewards. Don’t use this info as an excuse to smother your salad in high-fat dressing—just 1/5 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil drizzled onto a salad is enough to get the best out of veggies.


Peanut Butter

Sure, peanut butter is high in fat and calories—a two-tablespoon serving can pack about 190 calories and 16 grams of fat. But is it nuts to buy the reduced-fat version? “The fat in peanut butter is healthy monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to decrease inflammation, raise healthy cholesterol levels, promote weight loss and possibly fight belly fat,” says Erin Palinski, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, author of the forthcoming Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “Reduced-fat peanut butter takes away some of this healthy fat and replaces it with sugar.” To make the most of your PB, buy a natural version with no added sugar. 


If milk does a body good, then nonfat milk probably does a body better, no? “Milk is fortified with vitamins A and D, which are fat-soluble vitamins—essential vitamins that are stored in your liver and necessary for the absorption of other important nutrients,” says Palinski. “When you take all the fat out of milk, you don’t properly absorb these essential vitamins.” (This is why you’ll often see skim milks with added vitamins A and D.) Instead of nonfat or skim amilk, try one percent—it’s still low in saturated fat, but it has just enough fat to up vitamin absorption. And there’s a bonus: “One-percent milk contains higher levels than fat-free milk of conjugated lineolic acid, which may help reduce body fat,” says Palinski. But if you’re looking for an extra calcium kick from your milk, a glass of skim could be your best bet.

Click here for more fat-free options you shouldn't pick!

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Which of these surprised you? Do you generally opt for regular fat options or fat-free options?

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I don't usually get "reduced-fat" because they usually compensate by adding a crap ton of sugar... I like the sugar-free alternatives that use artificial sweeteners though. Report
Like sodium, carbs or cholesterol, fat is something that our bodies need. But inevitably, a study or book comes out that says one of these things is "bad" for you and some people become convinced that it's a good idea to cut them out altogether. How about some good old-fashioned moderation? Report
No fat free/skin milk? That's not what my nutrition class taught me! It's the best for you! Report
Alot of talk about "dressings". What do you "experts" think about the "Walden Farms" ( 0 sugar, fat, carbs, gluten, cholesterol) brand? I own every flavor offered! I also use it for sauteing meats and veggies. The ginger-sesame is the bomb with shrimp & veggies! Report
Nice article. I like the peanut butter part. I love natural version of PB. Report
Very interesting article
FISH! Go for the fatty fish!! It's far tastier that a lot of the white fish out there. Plus, with fatty fish you get a lot of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are GREAT for hair, nail, skin, brain function and so many more things! Also, when you pick up grass-fed red meats, don't be scared of their fat content, it's GOOD fat!

I would however be scared of ICE CREAM: gigieatscelebrities.com/2012/08/21/
uma-loves-a-threesome/ Report
Generally interesting discussion but they forgot one key factor, sodium. They may try to control calories, fats, sugars, and chemicals but then how would they "fix" the lowfat products - They put in 3 or 4 times more sodium. The huge quantities of sodium (that most people overlook) may kill us before the fats and sugars can. Report
Great info from the article and the comments. Some new info I did not previously have but will help immensely in my shopping decisions! Thanks! Report
salad dressings big surprise. Report
salad dressings big surprise. Report
I bought fat-free shredded cheddar "cheese" ONCE--& I won't do that ever again. The ingredients list is horrid, & there was very little calcium or protein in it. Much better to just use less full-fat cheese!

Fat-free cottage cheese, on the other hand, is delicious & packed with protein & calcium. I eat half a cup of it often. Report
This is so cool! I was going to write a blog asking for thots regarding my experience during vacation (1st week in Aug). I bought water, fruit, veggies for snacks, and bought milk & cereal instead of the normal McD's for vacation breakfasts. DS would only eat the cereal if we had 1% milk (normal is ff).
I have been drinking ff since it was blue (when it was first around) and disliking it! The 1% actually tasted good to me! and I hate the flavor of milk!

I was wondering if I should start buying 1% and break away from the ff type. This article gives me another reason to switch. Almost funny, I went to the store and the 1% was .20 cents more than ff, so I ended up with ff after all. Report
sugar free look for that. Report
I always drink fat-free milk. Except in my coffee - love the taste of half and half! Report
I knew the information about peanut butter but not the other items, good to know!
This is good news! I often really don't like the taste of "artificially" fat-free foods, which was probably my body trying to tell me they aren't that great for me. Report
I like the taste of skim milk, so I'm not sure if I'll make the switch there, but I do make sure to have almonds on a daily basis as well as plain yogurt, so I get most of my fat that way. Report
I prefer to eat real food. I use 2% milk. I make my own dressing , good virgin olive oil, either lemon or vinigar. I can't stand the no fat cheese. So eat less but still enjoy. I only use natural PB. You can still lose, or maintain and eat healthy, natural, foods if you choose wisely. I did and do, losing 200 lbs and maintaining for a year. Report
I somewhat disagree with this article, I never buy fat free but I do use lowfat, because I have a cholesterol problem and can not have the full fat. I think you can make up the fats in other things, add avacodo or some nuts to your salad or have a spoon of natural peanut butter with your salad. I always read the labels on lowfat to insure that I am not over doing it with the sugar or any other ingredients in the product...just an FYI for those of you out there that have heart problems or cholesterol problems! Report
I am SO happy to see this list. "Low-fat" and "fat-free" are usually synonymous w/ highly processed, and I always go with the less processed version of food. Report
I did not know the information on 1% milk and vitamin absorption. I've simply preferred the texture of it.

(I don't go "low-fat" deliberately - with the exception of meat where I pick lean cuts.) Report
I tell my kids that if time of famine always have peanut butter and honey. They are the best you can have at home to feed. Report
Surprised by the peanut butter and milk but everything in moderation - it is what you eat with those items that counts as well :) Report
I was surprised by Yogurt, Ice Cream and Salad Dressing. Although I don't remember eating a lot of Fat Free Ice Cream I eat Fat Free Yogurt Daily. Well...I'll have to really do something about the yogurt. That's my go to snack and smoothie base most of the time. Thanks for the information. Yogurt?! lol Report
Let me add to that, i'd never substitute anything for real full fat peanut butter...nothing is as good. Report
I think this article is a little misleading. There are THREE options out there. Full Fat, Reduced Fat & NO Fat. My nutritionist has told me NO FAT is always a no-no except milk, because you can get the milkfat from reduced fat cheeses and yogurts. Many people don't like to waste thier fat and cals on milk, they'd prefer a slice of cheese. FULL FAT is never necessary. The difference between NO Fat and Reduced fat is usually a major ingredient switch, which can mean sugar substitutes and other artificial flavoring. Most reduced fat items simply cut back on oils, fats and sugars instead of changing it out completely. Report
What is left out of this article is what else you can eat WITH these foods to give the fat you need. Sure, the peanut butter switch is a given, but if you're having a salad or veggies with low fat dressing and add some croutons, 3 oz of lean chicken, nuts, etc then you will get the fat you need and some protein (chicken or nuts) that you wouldn't get with just full fat dressing. Skim milk has .4g of fat per cup, so there is some fat in there, but when have you ever had just a glass of milk as a meal? You're going to eat it with other foods that have fat in it, which will allow the vitamins to be absorbed.

Sure, fat free or low fat isn't always the answer, but choosing these options isn't the worst thing in the world either. For people like me, low fat options are necessary because of my medical conditons, so if I can find a balance between non-fat, low fat, and full fat, then so can others. Report
WOW! Had no idea. We'll be buying 1% milk now. Report
I feel like these articles are misleading in that every body is different and handles nutrients from various sources differently. In regards to the salad dressing, I did hear that you need fats in order to get more bang for your buck with the veggies. But that fat doesn't have to come from the salad dressing. Add some avocado to your salad and you'd get the same benefit. Report
Choices, choices. CLA or more calcium. I eat lots of dairy and get lots of calcium, so I think I'll go for the 1% milk--still watching fat so won't go for whole milk.

I used to work at a health food store where we ground our own peanut butter. Once I had stil warm fresh ground peanut butter I was hooked and never went back. Report
I bought some fat-free dressing and am really regretting it as it's pretty gross IMO. Thanks for helping to ease my guilt for returning to a higher-fat, tastier salad dressing. Report
thanks for the info i did not realize fat free dressing stopped the absorption of vegetables. i always that it was a better chose. Report
Finally some sense about fat!

I thoroughly agree with choosing full fat milk. Many years ago, my grandmother was discovered to have lactose intolerance. Unfortunately back then they did not have lactose free milk for people, so the doctor told her to quit drinking milk. She was incredulous and felt he must have meant to have no-fat milk. She had broken her arm shortly before this. They had predicted that she would take a long time to heal, and yet it was completely healed within six weeks. They said she had the bones of a teenager. Yet after 6 months of being on the no-fat milk, her spine collapsed so that it had an S shape. She was in incredible pain after that -- all because of not having fat in her milk!

As for those who say that the fat in milk is saturated fat and should be avoided, it is my firm opinion that not enough is known about saturated fat. The Bible says to cut off the fat from meat, but it does NOT say to separate your eggs or to skim your milk! Report
Great information! Thanks! Report
I prefer to have my food as natural as possible. No 'fat free' 'no added sugar' full of added chemicals mumbo jumbo for me, thank you very much.

Nevermind that I make my own salad dressings, don't drink milk (LI) and get peanut butter that is just peanuts and salt. Report
Great to hear about the peanut butter. As a home health nurse, you're out during lunch and on the go all day. Lunch is something you have to pack that is safe in the car all day, or fast food and snacks. A jar of PB is a great replacement! Hungry? Just take a spoonful and you are satisfied and the protein helps restore your energy to keep going! Report
I like my fat free salad dressing and my full fat peanut butter. As for the milk I'm not sure I believe all of that. Report
I generally opt for regular fat options, just watch portion sizes. Fat is an important nutrient and is important for satiety. In the past when I've tried to cut fat, the sweeteners used to replace the mouth-feel and flavor of fat have just made me want to eat more (and the mind-game of fewer calories means it's OK didn't help either). Report
I believe in the power of peanut butter. : ) It is my save-all when having a not hungry day and not wanting to eat the calories. Especially in summer time when I can have a salad so often and happily. A spoonful of peanut butter usually takes care of it. Healthy fats + more protein = happy me. Report
Salad dressings and ice cream.
I like low fat frozen yogurt and I probably won't switch out the 90 calorie 1/2 C for the full fat 230 cal per 1/2 C version. I realize that salad dressings are laden with fat, but I think salt and vinegar are still better for me than the fat. Olive oil, okay but do I relly need it?

Thank you! I keep trying to convince people that real peanut butter in moderation is better for them and tastes better. Report
Hubby prefers Skim milk taste, I don't care as long as I have it for cereal and occasionally for tea. Report
this is good for you. thats bad for you. eat the healthy fats. dont eat this.. dont eat that.....gessssss.. " experts " are alsways coming up with something. dont even know what is good for you anymore. Report
The 1% milk is a change that I can make. I never used the completely fat-free dressings - the taste was too drastic a change... Report
The 1% milk surprised me! And the PB. I always think of PB2 as an easy way to have my PB and eat it too! Guess I'll think about switching back to the real/natural stuff. Report
Looks like I'll be switching back to regular dressing and maybe back to 1% milk. Report
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