Diet food (or dietetic food) refers to any food or
drink whose recipe has been altered in some way to
make it part of a body modification diet. Such foods
are usually intended to assist in weight loss or a
change in body type, although bodybuilding
supplements are designed to aid in gaining weight or
In addition to diet other words or phrases are used
to identify and describe these foods including
light, zero calorie, low calorie, low fat, no fat
and sugar free.
In some areas use of these terms may be regulated by
law. For example in the U.S. a product labeled as
"low fat" must not contain more than 3 grams of fat
per serving; and to be labeled "fat free" it must
contain less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving.
The process of making a diet version of a food usually
requires finding an acceptable low-food-energy substitute
for some high-food-energy ingredient. This can be as simple
as replacing some or all of the food's sugar with a sugar
substitute as is common with diet soft drinks such as
Coca-Cola (for example Diet Coke). In some snacks, the food
may be baked instead of fried thus reducing the food energy.
In other cases, low-fat ingredients may be used as
In whole grain foods, the higher fiber content effectively
displaces some of the starch component of the flour. Since
certain fibers have no food energy, this results in a modest
energy reduction. Another technique relies on the
intentional addition of other reduced-food-energy
ingredients, such as resistant starch or dietary fiber, to
replace part of the flour and achieve a more significant
In diet foods which replace the sugar with lower-food-energy
substitutes, there is some controversy based around the
possibility that the sugar substitutes used to replace sugar
are themselves harmful. Artificial sweeteners have been the
subject of intense scrutiny for decades, but according to
the National Cancer Institute and other health agencies,
there is no sound scientific evidence that any of the
artificial sweeteners approved for use in the U.S. cause
cancer or other serious health problems. Numerous research
studies confirm that artificial sweeteners are generally
safe in limited quantities, even for pregnant women.
In many low-fat and fat-free foods the fat is replaced with
sugar, flour, or other full-food-energy ingredients, and the
reduction in food energy value is small, if any.
Furthermore, an excess of digestible sugar (as well as an
excess of any macronutrient) is stored as fat. This
unhealthy weight gain is only aided by the effects of
preservatives and additives present in the food which are
not accounted for in the 'diet food' label.