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Finding The Hidden Fat on Food Labels

By Lindsay Nixon
May 10, 2012
File under: Diet, Healthy Eating, Meal Planning

I am often asked about the fat content of various foods and about the difference between the fat derived from calories and the total fat. It is really so valuable to be able to understand the information in the nutrition facts panel on food labels and how to avoid being fooled by them.

Determining the significance of the fat grams versus the calories from fat is not terribly complicated, if you know where to look. It’s important to pay attention to the serving size usually listed at the top of the nutrition facts and to keep that in mind when looking at the numbers.

You cannot compare foods without understanding the label and knowing the difference between calories from fat and total fat.  This key information will help you to determine whether a food is low fat or not.

First, there are the total calories.  This refers to all the calories that come from fat, protein and carbohydrates, the three components in all foods, calories that come only from fat and then the total amount of fat in each serving, which is reflected in grams.[1]

Together, these three figures help determine how “fatty” a food is.

For instance, peanut butter contains 188 total calories per serving of which 145 of those calories come from fat. The total amount of fat per serving is 16.1 grams.

Compare that to black beans. Canned black beans contain 227 total calories per serving, however only eight of those calories come from fat. The total amount of fat per serving is 0.9 grams.

How about raisins?  Raisins contain 130 total calories per serving. Zero calories come from fat because raisins have 0 grams of fat.

Now, let’s compare those three foods to Vegetable Oil.

Vegetable Oil contains 40 calories per serving. All 40 of those calories come from fat. The total amount of fat is 4.5 grams. This is why oil is sometimes referred to as “pure fat,” since all of its calories come from fat.

Do you see the difference? Knowing how many calories come from fat is often an easier way to determine whether a food is a high fat or low fat food.

I find total fat grams can sometimes be misleading without this caloric perspective and beans are an excellent example of this.

Gaining this perspective and understanding this crucial difference makes reading and comparing food labels to determine just how fatty a food is a lot easier.

Lindsay Nixon “The Happy Herbivore,” is a bestselling author, who just released her second cookbook, Everyday Happy Herbivore. Facebook Lindsay and follow her on Twitter.

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