Nutrition & Dieting/additives


A friend told me she avoids all the additives and chemicals added to foods. I think that's a good thing, but she said she also avoids foods that are labeled "low fat" or "low sodium" or "sugar free" because to be able to alter the food in that way, they add other things to it and it upsets her stomach. Is it true that to change foods to be 'low sodium' etc., they use more additives?  Thanks

Hi Lee,

That's a good question, and the answer is, "not necessarily".

The way to tell is to read the food label panel where the ingredients are and compare products.
For instance, if you compare two types of salad dressing and one says "fat free", yes, there are definitely ingredients added to the fat free dressing to make it appear, feel, and taste like the one with fat.

Sometimes if I find a "sugar free" tea or "diet tea" I like to think it's just good old brewed tea that's put in a can or a bottle--but usually it's not. I read the ingredient level and see that it's got sucralose or stevia or aspartame, and I just want plain tea! So I have to find one called "unsweetened". (and I still read the label just to be sure)

And definitely if you see "low calorie orange juice" it's got something funky changed in it for sure!

BUT, there are examples of low fat/salt/sugar foods that are just plain lower!
-A lower sodium soup may simply have less salt added to it (there could be some spices and seasonings they believe will make it taste better, but not necessarily a chemical additive)
- Low-sodium crackers, chips and pretzels just have no salt put on the tops
- Low-fat milk has some (or all) of the fat skimmed off it, and NOTHING is added to it (except fat-soluble vitamins in some brands)

And sometimes a product is just making a claim, and the product has not changed at all: examples that come to mind are "cholesterol-free peanut butter", "caffeine-free 7-up" and some candy bars that advertise "less fat"--like peppermint patties and 3 musketeers bars-- and in small print it says "compared to other full-sized candy bars", most of which contain nuts... which are naturally high in fat and calories.

So, the bottom line is, there's no 'always' about it. You have to take each individual case, read the ingredient label (the truth will always be there), and compare it to the original product to detect changes that were made!  

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Laurie Beebe, MS, RD, LD


As a registered dietitian (RD)I am fully qualified to accurately answer questions regarding weight loss, including those from people with health conditions requiring dietary restrictions (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc) who want to lose weight, or who have been advised to do so by their physician.


I have been a registered dietitian for over 30 years and have a certificate in Adult Weight Management through the commission on dietetic registration at Level 1 and Level 2. I am also trained in coaching through Coach U and currently work as a diet coach to help people lose weight the healthy way, through gradual habit changes.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group, Nutrition Entreprenuers, St.Louis International Coach Federation, Toastmasters

Publications,,,, Today's Dietitian

Bachelor of Health Science from the University of Florida, 1983; Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition from Case Western Reserve University 1985; Certificate in Adult Weight Management 2006; CoachU core essentials grad 2007; Level 2 certificate in Adult Weight Management 2010.

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