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Why Do Some Food Products Have "Not a Low Calorie Food" on Them?

Dana Hinders
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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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.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the DelightedCooking team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By anon1004723 — On Apr 07, 2021

Why do I see this on a package of Psyllium fiber? I thought it's insoluble and your body can't even digest it.

By seekinfo2 — On May 07, 2011

There definitely needs to be an emphasis put on calories. I serve my family food with low calories, and they are better off.

This nation is very overweight and needs to be put on the right track. All these fad diets these past few years have made things worse. There was low-fat, then low carb, and now there is that 500 calorie a day HCG diet. We just need to get back to eating healthy and watching calories. It is the only way to truly lose weight and keep it off.

By scifreak — On May 05, 2011

My friend eats low carb chocolate bars like they are nothing. What is the calorie count in them? All she talks about is how they are low in carbs and sugar. They got to have calories.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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