Fat City

Americans consume too much fat. Or so we're told.

Yet no less an authority than The Joy of Cooking contends that "avoiding it altogether is neither beneficial nor desirable." Each gram of fat contains about nine love-handle-enhancing calories. But each gram of fat also offers such necessities as vitamin K, whatever that is. Nutrition experts explain that, in a healthy diet, roughly 30 percent of all calories should come from fat.

Simply put, some fat is good for us. All fat makes food taste better. Just think about this: A cup of dinner-spoiling vanilla ice cream provides 11 grams of fat. A head of lettuce--the dieter's friend--has only 1 gram, but which would you rather have smothered in chocolate syrup? With that in mind, we turn to this week's burning question: Does anybody really eat low-fat/no-fat ice cream?


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"It's not really popular," admits Larry Ritchie, grocery director for the Tom Thumb store at Josey and Hebron in Carrollton. "It tastes terrible, and that's customer feedback." Tom Thumb sells one variety of fat-free ice cream, two kinds of "no-sugar-added," and three types of light (including Dreyer's Grand Light and Safeway's Select Light, both somehow distinct from regular light). The fat-free stuff contains non-fat milk, sorbitol, polydextrose, maltodextrine, stabilizer, and other assorted chemicals that serve as sweeteners and softeners and keep the organic food industry alive. The no-sugar-added variety includes a hefty amount of polydextrose and maltodextrine, but somewhat less sorbitol. It's no wonder regular ice cream outsells the fat-free/light version five-to-one. Marble Slab Creamery sells four flavors of "reduced fat" ice cream--amaretto, cheesecake, chocolate Swiss, and vanilla--but, according to a clerk, "not many people order it."

A few people admit to tasting the light or low-fat ice creams. In fact, Julie Giesenschlag recommends Blue Bell Light Vanilla, in the "homemade" version. But most people attach a stigma to those who delight in the healthier versions of ice cream. Izabella Buchanan, for example, admitted to buying low-fat ice cream several times a year. When told her comments were for publication, however, she quickly retracted, adding a hasty "I've never touched the stuff." Of course, her fear of discovery may be extreme.

Still, grocery stores and ice cream shops simply don't sell much of the stuff. "People will skimp on their diets and go for the good ice cream," says Ritchie.

So a measly cup of vanilla overflows with fat--11 grams of it. The light version offers about 6 grams. And the no-fat, well, who cares?

Nobody eats that stuff.


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