Foods labeled "low fat," "low calorie" and "low sodium" can all help make grocery shopping easier while on a specific diet. When advertising foods as low in a particular nutrient, the following terms might also be used: "little," "few," "contains a small amount of" and "low source of." The terms "low fat," "low calorie" and "low sodium" do not necessarily mean these foods are more healthy for you. It is important to be aware of serving sizes when eating these foods. Consuming excess amounts of any food can lead to increased calorie intake and, over time, possible weight gain.
According to the FDA, foods labeled "low fat" must contain less than 3 grams of fat per serving. Not to be confused with portion size, a food's serving size is considered the amount as listed on the food label, not portion size, which is the amount you choose to eat at a sitting. A low-fat food can easily become a moderate- to high-fat food if consumed in excess amounts.
To be labeled "low calorie," a food must contain 40 calories or less per serving. Meals and main dishes that are low calorie contain less than 120 calories per 100-gram serving. Raw celery is an example of a low-calorie food. Per large stalk, celery contains only 10 calories.
Low sodium foods contain less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. Some foods are advertised as very low sodium. These contain even less sodium -- no more than 35 milligrams per serving. The recommended daily intake limit for sodium is 1,500 milligrams, although your body rarely needs more than 500 milligrams daily, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control.
The fact that a food is labeled low-fat, low-sodium or low-calorie does not necessarily mean it is healthy. For example, gum drop candies may be low-fat or no-fat, but they are very high in sugar and calories. Likewise, a low-salt soup may be high in fat to make it more palatable without salt. Always read labels when selecting foods products to verify nutritional contents.