In three years, you won’t find foods with artificial trans fats on your grocery store shelves. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that manufacturers have to remove all trans fat from their products in that time frame.
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Why wait? With a little smart shopping, you can avoid the worst type of fat now.
Food makers use trans fats to enhance taste and texture and make foods last longer. Unfortunately, that’s not all trans fats do. They also increase your risk for many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Your recommended daily intake: 0 grams.
Start by avoiding the offenders below. On top of that, use this shopping tip: Check the label for “partially hydrogenated oils.” They’re a hidden source of trans fats.
1. Cakes, pies and cookies (especially with frosting)
Most cake and cookie mixes list 0 grams of trans fat on the label. But there’s a catch. Manufacturers can list 0 grams if the trans fat content is under 0.5 grams. Those small amounts add up when you eat multiple servings of sweets. If you add frosting, you’re in for a whopping dose. An average serving of frosting contains 2 grams of trans fat, plus the same amount of sugar as one tiny slice of cake.
This one surprises a lot of people. Frozen biscuits contain upwards of 3.5 grams of trans fat. Watch out for the word “flaky,” a texture trans fat helps produce. In addition, biscuits often contain over half of the daily recommendation for sodium.
3. Breakfast sandwiches
Sure, microwavable breakfasts save you time, but they typically contain at least 1 gram of trans fat (more if they come on a biscuit). Take a close look at the ingredients, and you’re likely to find partially hydrogenated oils in the top five. Plus, they’re packed with sodium.
4. Margarine (stick or tub)
Most margarine makers have removed trans fat from their ingredients, but you still have to double-check. The few that still contain trans fat have levels as high as 3 grams per serving.
Many crackers also benefit from the labeling loophole. You may see a “0” on the label and think you’re safe, but don’t be fooled. Check the ingredients. Here’s a tip: If a food can last in your pantry for weeks without going stale, trans fat might be keeping it fresh.
6. Microwave popcorn
Next time you watch a movie, choose your snack carefully. Microwave popcorn is a source of whole grains and antioxidants, but many buttered and flavored varieties have trans fat content as high as 5 grams per serving. Check the labels carefully, and opt for popcorn that comes with no trans fat.
7. Cream-filled candies
Bite-sized candies with creamy fillings typically contain 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. But it’s all too easy to eat more than one serving. Before you know it, you’ve ingested far too much sugar and an alarming amount of trans fat, all without any nutritional benefit.
Many establishments have taken trans fat out of their ingredients, but be wary. Even those who make the “0 gram” claim may contain a small amount. That risk rises if you choose frosted or cream-filled doughnuts. And don’t forget, doughnuts offer a sugar bomb with little protein or fiber, which leads to a crash later in the day.
9. Fried fast foods
Trans fat can lurk in your favorite fries (5 grams) and sandwiches (2 grams). Luckily, most fast food companies and restaurants display nutrition and ingredient information on their websites or at the restaurant. Look them up before ordering or ask your server if they use partially hydrogenated oils. Be wary of deep-fried goodies at fairs and carnivals, too.
10. Frozen pizza
Frozen pizzas are another example where convenience isn’t worth the damage, with around 1 gram per slice or serving. Frozen pizzas rely on trans fat to give the crust that flaky texture. Think of it like this: If refrigerated or frozen dough produces a texture that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Contributor: Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD