Q: I am having a hard time finding out the answer to my question anywhere which is concerning products such as fat-free half and half, fat-free Cool Whip, and Coffee-Mate Lite. They look like they would be perfect to use in unlimited quantities but I see on the labels that they have partially hydrogenated oils and coconut and palm oils, so I am very confused. Can you please help me unravel this mystery? Are these products as heart healthy as they look? Thank you so much.
A: I think most of the manufacturers of these products would call them “healthier for you foods” rather than health foods.
The answer to your question is a simple one. FDA labeling requirements establish that a food can be trans fat or fat free if there is less than a certain amount of fats PER SERVING. This is why something can be labeled as fat free and still contain fats in the list of ingredients.
The same goes for calories. A product can be “essentially” calorie free PER SERVING, but if you sit down and eat many servings at once, you may be consuming many more calories than you planned.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.
Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.