What is the difference between diet, light and zero foods?

Among the shelves of a supermarket there are many products with the most different accents on the labels – such as the terms diet, light and zero. Generally, these three terms are associated with low calorie foods, but this is not always true. It is necessary to know the difference between them, because they indicate different nutritional points in each food.

To understand the difference between diet, light and zero products, nutritionist Tatiane Cortes Roso says it’s essential people learn to read the label. After all, all the selected ingredients and caloric issues are described there.

Diet, zero and light foods have important differences that consumers should be aware of (Image: Reproduction/Dolgachov/Envato Elements)

Next, learn about the key features and differences between diet, light, and zero products:

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“Dietary products are aimed at people with special diets for certain diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, dyslipidemia,” explains the nutritionist at Agência Brasil. In these products, there is usually a reduction of certain nutrients.

To illustrate this point, the expert comments that the industry can remove sodium from a potato chip in its diet version. In this case, the tendency is for the manufacturer to replace the sodium with potassium chloride, in compensation. Only on the label will it be possible to identify which nutrient has been removed or replaced.

Another problem is that nutrient reduction is not always complete. “There may be residual sugars and total fats in the product up to a maximum of 0.5 g per 100 g/ml”, comments the nutritionist.

Finally, it should not be taken as a rule that any dietetic product is less caloric than the traditional one. This is the case with yogurts, where the fat content is reduced, but the manufacturer adds other elements to replace the total fat, such as starch, sugars and thickeners.


In the case of a light food, it must present a reduction of at least 25% of some of its components compared to its traditional version. Typical nutrients that can be reduced are: sugar, fat and sodium.

Food labels show the caloric value and nutrients present in the formula (Image: Reproduction/Prostock-studio/Envato Elements)

“It is not enough to claim that the product has been reduced in certain nutrients, it must be compared with a conventional version of the same food. In this way, the consumer will know if there has really been a decrease in nutritional and/or energy value”, reinforces Roso.

In addition, the expert points out that light foods are generally indicated for weight loss diets. However, a big mistake is to overdo the amount of consumption of one of these products – more than you would with its original version – and end up gaining weight. After all, they still have calories and these must be taken into account in a diet.


Now the term zero is used by the industry when the food has no specific component. The phrase is often used to highlight versions without sugar, fat or sodium. The difference with food is that, here, another nutrient is generally not used to “replace” the lost flavor.

In this way, a product without sugar can be consumed by a person with diabetes, provided that he checks the label and verifies that this composition can actually be consumed in his diet.

People who want to lose weight can also get in, as the trend is towards using less sugar and calories in zero products. Again, it pays to read the label before adding this item to your grocery cart.

In addition to industrialized products, people living with chronic illnesses or looking to lose weight can benefit from natural foods that have not undergone any type of processing in the food industry, such as fruits and roots. In such cases, it is always advisable to seek the advice of a nutritionist.

Source: Brazil Agency

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