Hi everyone! I thought an interesting and useful topic to discuss today is the difference between the terms "diet" and "light". Those are often used on food labels and may cause confusion among consumers. So I’d like to clarify the characteristics of each to help you choose the more adequate product for your case!
Many people, not properly informed about the difference between light and diet products, tend to over consume these products and end up eating a greater caloric value than what they would have done with regular products.
For example, if you replace an ordinary slice of cake with two slices of cake diet you may be ingesting a greater amount of calories! I’ll explain why…
Products with labels indicating DIET may have one of the following words written on them: “doesn’t contain", "free of", "zero”, "without", "free of a certain nutrient or ingredient”. Diet products are those that do not have one or more ingredients in their composition and are usually prescribed for people with certain medical conditions, such as:
- Absence of sugar (sucrose, honey, glucose) − recommended for diabetics
- Absence of fat – recommended for people with high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides
- Absence of salt – recommended for people with hypertension
It is common for diet products to be associated with weight loss, but many times the caloric content is not lower than those of regular products. It can even be more caloric!
Diet chocolate, for example, has no sugar (where sugar is replaced with the sweetener) but still has fat and is high in calories - the manufacturer often adds fat to the formula to maintain consistency and make it more palatable. As such the product is suitable for diabetics but brings no benefit to anyone trying to lose weight especially if more than 1 bar is consumed per day. The same goes for cakes, breads, crackers and other products.
In some other diet products the eliminated nutrients such as sodium or protein don’t change or lower the amount of calories compared to the regular product at all!
So even if a product is DIET, it should be consumed with moderation else the consumer might gain weight.
Products labeled LIGHT on the package are described as "Low", "Reduced" or "Less".
Light products are those that show a reduction of at least 25% in one of its ingredients such as sugar, fat, etc… compared to the regular product. The product to which the food is compared to is usually stated on the label. Such foods are more suitable for people who want to control their calorie intake!
Light products help you lose weight if you are following a balanced low calorie eating pattern, but it’s important to note that over-consumption of a product that contains fewer calories than the original can lead to the ingestion of the same amount of calories or even higher when compared to the moderate consumption of something non-light.Mayonnaise for example is naturally high in calories. Although its light version has a calorie reduction of 50% compared to the traditional, it is important to note that the product remains caloric and we must be careful not to exaggerate in consumption.
I hope the difference between the two is clearer now and I hope that this article will give you guidance on what to buy according to your situation! if you need a closer monitoring for your healthy lifestyle don’t hesitate to contact me!
Samia Khoury Dietitian