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The Lowdown On Low-Carbs

A lot of America's favorite foods are coming out in a low-carb variety. But the packaging is often misleading and may be undermining your weight-control plan.

The current issue of Consumer Reports magazine focuses on low-carb foods, and Ronni Sandroff, the magazine's health editor, told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm about some of its findings:

  • Low-carb labels are meaningless.
  • Not all low-carb foods are equal.
  • Low-carb then is not low-carb now.
  • Low-carb junk food is still junk.

    The low-carb trend is somewhat like the fat-free craze of a few years ago.

    "That's what I'm afraid of, with all these low-carb products, people think they can eat as much of it as they want, as people made the same mistake with the low-fat products," said Sandroff. "But the truth is, they still have calories."

    When looking at food labels, consumers should be aware that "low-carb" is not a regulated term.

    Explains Sandroff, "The FDA is just beginning to look into it, because there's been this flood of 'low-carb' products. They haven't kept up. There have been something like 930 new introductions in the last few years." And that includes everything from beer to spaghetti.

    When you look at a food label, Sandroff recommends first paying attention to the serving size listed. And then, she says, "To my mind, the most important thing to notice is the total calories."

    Even if the carbohydrates seem low, the number of calories will undermine the most dedicated dieter.

    "The way the low-carb diet seems to have worked in the past is that it really restricted you from eating any cakes, candies, snacks and things like that," says Sandroff. "And so that brought your calorie consumption down and that helped you lose weight. But if you're going to be eating a lot of these products, I'm not sure that diet is going to work at all… Most of the low-carb introductions have been cakes, candies, potato chips and those kind of foods."

    The bottom line: To lose weight, you still have to stay away from the junk.

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