Irritations of Modern Life: 14. Fat-Free Foods

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The Independent Culture
"EIGHTY-FIVE per cent fat-free" smiles Mr Motivator, every Valium- pickled housewife's dream, of McVitie's new Go-Ahead Caramel Crisp Bars. What rubbish all this XX per cent fat-free nonsense is that is now plastered on everything. Eighty-five per cent fat-free may sound great, but it is still 15 per cent fat, which is quite a lot. Yes, it may be better than gobbling a Fuse bar, but nowhere near as delicious.

I understand the point of them. You feel like a naughty snack, you buy an XX per cent fat-free bar of chocolate, you eat it and bingo. No guilt. But not that much pleasure, either. And with not much pleasure comes frustration, and before you know it, there are three wrappers marked XX per cent fat- free stuffed down the side of the sofa.

For that you could have had a Mars Bar and felt satisfied, and your fingers would have been sticky with glorious full-fat chocolate. Instead you feel like a miserable failure.

A McVitie's chocolate biscuit has 23.9g of fat per 100g of product - 87 calories per biscuit. The Go-Ahead version has only 14g of fat per 100g, but it is still 55 calories per biscuit. Yes, I know it is not just the calories that matter but my point is that for an extra 22 measly calories you can lick the melting chocolate off a far-tastier-dunked-in-tea biscuit.

Jacob's launched its Vitalinea range a few months ago. Half-way through a packet of its Crispy Chocolate biscuits a colleague spluttered "Oh God. These still contain 16g of fat and I've just had 140 calories' worth of them" (although this did equate to 10 whole biscuits). All in the name of fat freeness, she would not even have been eating them if that wretched banner proclaiming XX per cent fat-free had not been scrolled across the wrapper. Because yes, doesn't it seem that just by eating them you are on the road to being fat-free?

Now take Entenmann's cakes. Hallelujah, I thought, when I saw its (95 per cent fat-free) Double Chocolate Muffins in Tesco. But it is a simple sum to calculate: little fat, little taste. We are all looking for a short cut; we all want to eat as much as we like but miraculously lose weight. I will let you in to a secret; my new book will be about this and it is called The Secret of Losing Weight. The first chapter is called "Food" and it says "Eat less and you will lose weight". The second (and final) chapter is called "Moving" and it says, "Move more and you will lose weight".

Of all the fat-free garbage we have been bombarded with the best was the Mars Light which, in fact, annoyingly, we were not bombarded with at all. After trialling it only in Wales and the West Country, Mars withdrew it. Bring it back! We would know where we were with this: a gorgeous Mars but with half the fat of the Marianne Faithfull variety.