If you’re trying to lose weight, you may be wondering why some of the snacks you see at the grocery store have “not a low calorie food” printed on the package. This labeling is now legally required by the United States' Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after customer groups began complaining that manufacturers were using nutrition labels to mislead the public. By requiring the label, the FDA hopes to bring attention back to the fact that calorie counting is an important part of any healthy diet.
The low-carb craze that promised dieters they can drop excess pounds by eliminating or greatly reducing carbohydrates from their diets has spawned a number of products bearing labels such as “carb smart,” “carb-fit,” “carb counting,” or “reduced-carb.” Unfortunately, unlike the labels “a good source of calcium,” “high in fiber,” or “low-fat,” the FDA has no clear definition for these carbohydrate-related labeling terms. Since there are no specific requirements, manufacturers are free to interpret the nutritional content of their food as they wish. In fact, some companies have even started referring to a product’s “net carbs” — a calculation that subtracts fiber and sugar alcohols from an item’s total carbohydrate content.
By requiring the “not a low calorie food” label on products which claim to promote a low-carb style but fail to meet the FDA’s requirements for a low calorie food, it is hoped that consumers will be better able to make smart choices about what they eat. On a similar note, the FDA also requires this disclosure on products that are claiming to have “no sugar added.”
Regardless of the specific diet plan you choose to follow, you need to remember that calories are important. Cookies can be made to have a reduced carbohydrate content, but they are not a low calorie food. Potato chips, regardless of what health claims are made, are not low in calories. Even gum with no added sugar is not a low calorie food if you chew two or more packages per day.
If you consume more calories than you burn in a typical day, you will gain weight. To lose weight, you need to reduce the number of calories you eat to a level that is less than what you burn based on your level of physical activity. It’s fine to choose snacks that are labeled as “no sugar added” or “low-carb” for a special treat. However, the bulk of your diet should be lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables that offer the nutrients you need without excess calories.