If television commercials and celebrity dieters being paid big bucks to endorse products are to be believed, low fat foods are the gateway to weight loss, lower cholesterol and satiated appetites. Grocery store shelves are lined with low fat products—from butter to pretzels to yogurt to candy bars. Yes, candy bars.

But are these lower fat alternatives to the foods people generally know and love really as good as advertised?

The key to the answer likely lies in the labels.

Low Fat Foods|BeLite Weight

But first, a quick history lesson on where the low-fat food trend started, and how it has evolved.

Back in the early 1980s, doctors started telling everyone that a healthy lifestyle is one without an abundance of saturated fats. They said everyone needed to consume fewer dairy products, less red meat and eschew the processed foods in favor of fresh alternatives.

It wasn’t long after the doctors made their proclamations that many of the food manufacturers started producing lower-fat alternatives—foods that replaced animal fats with vegetable oils known as hydrogenated fats.

The labels screamed “low fat,” and they were correct. Unfortunately, doctors soon discovered that the hydrogenated fats were no better for the dining public than the animal fats they replaced. They were, in many cases, worse for you because they were loaded with trans-fats and the food manufacturers had to significantly increase sugar levels in their recipes to make their products taste good.

Now doctors know that cutting fats isn’t the key to a healthy diet. Everyone needs fats to help them digest vitamins and make food taste better. But doctors now know that there are good fats and bad fats. Bad fats are found in red meat and dairy products and trans-fats in highly processed products and those that include a lot of hydrogenated fats from vegetable oil.

Good fats, however, are found in lean white meat such as chicken and turkey, fish, nuts, seeds, and un-saturated olive oils.

So should you cut out fats from your diet? Yes—but only the bad ones. The best thing to do is read labels closely and avoid anything with trans-fats or saturated fats.