Calories in “light” foods

A report by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) shows that many of the foods offered as light do not always contain few calories.

The OCU has compared the nutritional profile and the caloric intake of a series of normal products and their light equivalent. And it has translated the caloric difference between both versions into minutes of walking at a speed of 5km / hour (in 60 minutes at that rate 273 calories are burned). The results that the OCU has obtained are reproduced below:


«They are usually very caloric, in addition to containing too much salt, too much fat and additives (which enhance the flavor, colors …).

Risketos: A 40g serving of these orange sticks is 226 kcal. If it is light, 32 kcal less.

Popcorn: A 40g serving of microwave popcorn is 200 kcal. If they are light, 29 less.

Potato chips: A 40g serving has 215 kcal. The light version, an average of 36 kcal less.

Choosing a light snack instead of the normal one is equivalent to 6-8 minutes of walking ».

The OCU advises that “a truly light alternative is to substitute raw snacks (celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes), pickles or even nuts (as long as they are not fried, salty and in small quantities)”. They are healthier options.

Dairy products

“The difference with normal products is that they are made with skim or semi-skim milk.

Milk: A glass of regular milk has 130 kcal, while one of skim milk has 70.

Yogurt: A normal plain yogurt has about 70 kcal, while if it is 0% fat it hardly reaches 50 kcal.

Butter: A 10g serving contains 72-75 kcal. The light version barely 30 kcal.

Substituting the normal version for the light version is 10 minutes of walking ».

The OCU considers that in these cases “the reduction is noticeable and it is worth opting for the light option.” However, he warns that the fats in these products “remain saturated. That is why it is better to replace or alternate butter with 10g of olive oil, which, although it has more calories, is healthier and more effective in normalizing blood lipid levels. ”

Cheeses: «A 60g serving of normal semi-cured cheese has 250 kcal and its light equivalent only 174. Normal fresh cheese 110 and if it is light 85. A portion of melted cheese (16g) is 40 kcal, the light version 22. Cheese spread (20g) has 56 kcal, and drops to 38 in light version.

Choosing a semi-cured cheese, Havarti or Gouda light is equivalent to 12 minutes of walking.

Choosing the light version of the cheeses is worth it, since the reduction in calories is significant. The caloric difference of maturing cheeses is more interesting than in the case of fresh cheese, although a aged cheese, however light, will always have more calories than normal fresh cheese.


“They are rich in sugar and these foods are among those with the highest energy value.

Jam: A 25g serving has 50 kcal, while if it is light it has 13 kcal less.

Cookies: On average, a 40g serving has 190 kcal and if they are light or with less sugar or fat it drops to 174.

The caloric savings in these cases is irrelevant: just 4 minutes walking. The light versions are limited to substituting sugar for sweeteners ».


“They are a temptation for many consumers.

Ketchup: A serving of 10ml provides just 10 calories and if we opt for light ketchup only 8. Ketchup lowers calories reducing sugars.

The light version is equivalent to just a minute walking at a brisk pace.

The caloric difference “is ridiculous,” says the OCU.

Mayonnaise: A serving of 10 ml is equivalent to 65 kcal and the light ones around half. Some brands even go further and have far fewer calories.

Choosing the light version would be equivalent to about 6 minutes of walking.

In the mayonnaise the light version is interesting since they provide much less fat. Light sauces can be a good option to prepare a Russian salad, but for asparagus or other types of salads it is better to opt for a good vinaigrette of extra virgin olive oil and a good vinegar (the caloric content is somewhat lower and we get used to it) to replace mayonnaise) or with a yogurt sauce, whose caloric intake is even lower and have less fat ».

OCU Tips

According to the legislation, these are the product classifications, which must be identified on the label:

Light or reduced content: only products that reduce the content of one or more nutrients by 30% compared to a similar product can be called that.

Low in calories or low energy value: the product should not have more than 40 kcal per 100g, if it is a solid, or 20 kcal per 100ml, if it is liquid.

No calories: they are foods with less than 4 kcal per 100 ml.

Taking this classification into account, the OCU offers a series of recommendations to consumers regarding light foods:

  1. Read the nutrition label carefully. Note the energy value, fats, sugars … The small print will allow you to check how the caloric reduction has been done.
  2. Some light foods, although they have 30% fewer calories than a normal one, still have a high energy value. Therefore, be careful with the temptation to take more with the excuse that it is a light food, since it could even consume more calories.
  3. Eat less food than the normal version. Although they have more calories, they are surely healthier.
  4. It is not about saving calories at any price. Sometimes light products are more expensive.
  5. Exercising is the key to burning calories.


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