What does low fat and reduced fat mean?

You might notice some products (especially dairy products) are labelled ‘low fat’, and some are labelled ‘reduced fat’. But what does this actually mean? It can get a bit confusing with all of these different terms on food packaging.

What does low fat and reduced fat mean?

There are laws about what food manufacturers can say about the nutrition of their products which are defined by the Food Standards Code. When they use wording like low fat, this is called a ‘nutrient content claim’.

Here are some tips to help you make sense of these particular claims.

Low fat

For a solid food to be labelled low fat (e.g. cheese and yoghurt), it must have 3 grams of total fat per 100 grams or less.

For a liquid food to be labelled low fat (e.g. milk), it must have 1.5 grams of total fat per 100 millilitres or less.

Reduced fat

This is when a food has 25% less fat than the standard version. For example, a reduced-fat cheddar will have 25% less fat than regular cheddar. Food manufacturers can do this by using a different manufacturing process or ingredients (e.g. using a lower-fat milk to make cheese).

Tips for choosing milk and milk products lower in fat

Milk and milk products are packed with nutritional goodness. They contain protein, vitamins and minerals.

The Ministry of Health and Heart Foundation recommend low- and reduced-fat milk and milk products for children over the age of two and adults. This is to reduce intake of saturated fat and total energy (kilojoules). Click here for more information on dairy and the heart.



  • Milks that are low fat usually have a green or yellow lid. Milks that are reduced-fat usually have a light blue lid.


  • Most cheeses are high in fat (much of which is saturated fat). Make cheese go further by using small amounts or grating it rather than slicing.
  • Use a stronger flavoured cheese (like parmesan), but less of it. You’ll still get the great cheesy flavour without needing to use as much.
  • Softer cheeses tend to have less fat than hard cheeses.
    • Examples of soft cheeses: Cottage cheese, low-fat cream cheese, ricotta.
    • Examples of hard cheeses: Edam, Noble, reduced-fat cheddar.


  • Try using natural, unsweetened yoghurt and adding your own fresh fruit.
  • Some yoghurts are low fat but sweetened with added sugar. It's important to choose one that has the least amount of added sugar (per 100g).


Remember, full fat milk and milk products (or fortified alternatives) are recommended for children aged from 1-2 years Reduced- and low-fat milk and milk products are appropriate once children are aged over 2 years. Click here for more information.

For more info on nutrition and health claims, see Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code – Standard 1.2.7 and Schedule 4.

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The Fuelled4life team.