Health & Wellness

22 Worst Foods for Trans Fat

By Amanda MacMillan – from Health –

Trans fat can make food taste good, last longer on grocery-store shelves, and more hazardous for your heart.

“Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol just like saturated fats, but they also increase inflammation and lower the good cholesterol that protects us against heart disease,” says Andrea Giancoli, RD, MPH, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

The good news? Many food manufacturers and fast-food chains have removed or reduced trans fat. But it still lurks in many foods— — here are 22 to watch.

French fries

Trans fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.

Many restaurant chains have stopped frying food in hydrogenated oils, and recent research found that five in particular— — McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, and Dairy Queen— — had significantly reduced trans-fat levels in french fries.

But others have been slow to embrace the trend: A large Cajun fries from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, for example, still contains 3.5 grams of trans fat.

Anything fried or battered

Nutritional information might be harder to find for independent restaurants and local eateries than the big chains, says Giancoli, so it’s smart to assume that anything fried or battered may have trans fat.

“You can certainly ask about the oil that the food is fried in,” she says. “But even if they say vegetable oil, it could still be hydrogenated.”

Your best bet, she adds, is generally to limit consumption of fried foods, which aren’t the best for you, trans fat or not.

Pie and piecrust

Baked products are notorious for containing trans fat, but many major restaurant chains (such as McDonald’s and Burger King) have removed hydrogenated oils from their apple pies.

You can still find the trans-fat varieties in your grocery store, however: Many varieties of Marie Callender’s frozen fruit and cream pies have between 2 and 4.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

As for piecrust, Pillsbury Pet-Ritz Frozen Deep Dish All Vegetable piecrust contains 1.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Look for one without hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list.

Margarine sticks

Not so long ago, margarine was marketed as a healthier alternative to butter because it’s made from vegetable oil instead of dairy or animal products. But for the margarine to maintain its solid form, many brands (especially stick varieties) depend on hydrogenated oils and are high in trans fat and/or saturated fat.

Steer clear of Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Spreadable Sticks (2 grams trans fat per serving), Blue Bonnet Regular Sticks (1.5 grams per serving), Land O’Lakes margarine sticks (2.5 grams per serving), and Fleischmann’s original stick margarine (1.5 grams per serving), and instead opt for whipped, reduced-fat, or fat-free soft spreads. Get more tips here: Butter vs. Margarine: How to Choose.

Shortening

Crisco has come a long way in terms of trans fat — —so far, in fact, that according to the label, the popular shortening now contains 0 grams. But a closer look at the ingredients list shows that partially hydrogenated oils are still there.

Companies are allowed to round down and put “0 grams” on the nutrition label if their product has less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving. But if you do a lot of baking— — or a lot of eating once the cookies come out of the oven — —those trace amounts can add up to unhealthy levels.

Cake mixes and frostings

Even if you find a cake or muffin mix that’s trans fat-free, you could still see the telltale word “shortening” on many ingredients lists, which means there are trace amounts.

Plus, you still need to worry about how you’re going to top your creation. Duncan Hines’s frostings contain 1.5 grams per serving, while Betty Crocker’s contain up to 2 grams. (Betty Crocker’s homestyle fluffy white frosting mix, however, is trans fat-free.)

Pancakes and waffles

Pancake and waffle mixes, too, often contain hydrogenated oils.

Bisquick’s original pancake mix still contains 1.5 grams trans fat per serving, so opt for the newer (and trans-fat free) Bisquick Complete, Gluten Free, or Heart Smart formulas.

Fried chicken

Although you are less likely to find trans fat in frozen fried chicken, including Banquet and Walmart brands, there are still some offenders out there: Kid Cuisine All American Fried Chicken meal— — a children’s product — —has 1 gram of trans fat.

Dining out at a restaurant? The same rules that apply to french fries apply to fried chicken (and fried fish, for that matter), says Giancoli. Unless you know an establishment does not fry in hydrogenated oils, assume that it does — —or ask for clarification.

Ice cream

Certain flavors of Haagen-Dazs ice cream — —including pineapple-coconut, cherry-vanilla, caramel cone, green tea, and even plain old vanilla— — contain 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. But if you read the ingredients list, the telltale listing of partially hydrogenated oils is missing.

That is probably because there are naturally occurring trans fats in fat-containing dairy products, says Giancoli. However, it is not clear if these naturally occurring trans fats are as bad for you as the trans fats in processed food. They’re high in calories, however, so you should still watch your intake.

Nondairy creamers

For coffee lovers, nondairy creamers can become an integral part of your morning. Over time, however, they can also add a considerable amount of trans fat to your diet. Take Coffee-Mate products, for example: Each serving contains 0 grams trans fat, yet, for most flavors (even the fat-free and low-fat varieties), partially hydrogenated oils are the second or third ingredient listed.

“At breakfast when you’re making coffee, you’re not usually thinking about nutrition or reading labels,” says Giancoli. “The amounts can really sneak up on you if you drink a lot of coffee.”

Microwave popcorn

Popcorn in itself is a healthy snack, and a serving of whole grains to boot. But when you pour on the gooey toppings, there’s no telling what you’re really adding.

Case in point: Orville Redenbacher’s microwave popcorn. The Pour Over Movie Theater butter flavor contains 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, and the Pour Over Caramel flavor contains 1.5 grams.

Pop Secret is even worse: The butter and extra-butter flavors each contain 5 grams of trans fat per serving— — about 15 grams per bag!

Ground beef

Just as with dairy products, beef can also contain natural trans fat. So although the big chains have worked hard to remove hydrogenated oils from their fried foods, most restaurant burgers still contain significant levels of trans fat.

You’ll also find trans fat in many frozen burgers, beef sausages, beef hot dogs, and ground beef.

“Most of us should be reducing our consumption of animal products anyway, so it’s a good idea to limit these products and choose plant-based foods instead,” says Giancoli.

Cookies

Oreos phased out trans fat in 2006 after Kraft Foods was sued by the Campaign to Ban Partially Hydrogenated Oils. (The lawsuit was dismissed.) Chips Ahoy!, Nilla Wafers, and Girl Scout cookies also now fall below 0.5 grams per serving, although some still contain partially hydrogenated oils.

Check other store-bought cookies and cookie dough: Carr’s ginger-lemon creme cookies contain 2 grams of trans fat per serving and Pillsbury’s Ready To Bake cookies contain up to 2.5 grams of trans fat per serving. “Anything that can sit on a shelf or in a package for a while needs to be stabilized, which often means it’s hydrogenated,” Giancoli says.

Biscuits and sweet rolls

Many chains — —Burger King, McDonald’s, and Popeyes— — now offer biscuits with 0 grams of trans fat per serving. Although most Cinnabon locations are trans fat–free (including all locations in California and New York), it it still creeps into the products at some. Krispy Kreme’s large cinnamon and pecan rolls still have 1 gram each.

And check the grocery-store type. Pillsbury’s refrigerated Grands! Homestyle Butter Tastin’ and Grands! Homestyle Buttermilk contain 3 grams each. The brand’s caramel and Cinnabon cinnamon rolls with icing contain 1 and 2 grams of trans fat per serving, respectively, and many of the varieties that list 0 grams still contain hydrogenated oil.

Breakfast sandwiches

Doughnuts are often the poster-child food for trans fat, but in 2007, Dunkin’ Donuts reformulated their menu so most items now contain 0 grams per serving (or at least fall below 0.5 grams).

Unfortunately that’s not always true for breakfast sandwiches served on biscuits, such as Burger King’s, some of which contain 1 gram of trans fat. And at the grocery store, steer clear of Jimmy Dean packaged sandwiches, which have up to 3 grams of trans fat each.

Frozen or creamy beverages

Krispy Kreme has also reduced trans fats in their doughnuts to below 0.5 grams per serving, but there’s still a surprising non-doughnut source of trans fat on their menu— — the worst item on our list, in fact.

A 20-ounce Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Arctic Avalanche contains a whopping 9 grams of trans fat. Across the board, many of the restaurant shakes and creamy drinks we looked at contained a gram or two (hot chocolate beverages too), but nothing came close to this over-the-top blend of soft-serve ice cream and cookie dough mix-ins.

Meat sticks

You’re packing more than just protein when you snap into a Slim Jim: The Giant size Dare and Monster versions of this jerky strip contain 1 and either 1.5 or 2 grams of trans fat, respectively. (The original, smaller snack sticks also contain trans fat, which occurs naturally in beef, in smaller amounts.)
Instead of processed meat sticks, aim to eat more plant-based snacks such as fruit or raw vegetables. And get most of your protein from heart-healthy fish, poultry, lentils, soybeans, and nuts.
Crackers
Nabisco’s Premium Saltines, Stoned Wheat Thins, and Ritz have trans-fat levels below 0.5 grams per serving, but some varieties contain partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil in their ingredients lists. If you eat more than a few crackers, even this small amount will add up.
To be sure you’re buying crackers that contain no trans fat, Giancoli suggests reading the ingredients list before even looking at the nutrition label. Choose snacks that avoid hydrogenated oils altogether, such as Stacy’s Pita Chips or Annie’s Bunnies.
Frozen dinners
“Read labels carefully when you’re in the frozen-foods section,” says Giancoli. They are likely to contain trans fat not just to make the foods more stable but also to give them a fattier feel in your mouth, she adds.
Frozen dinners and microwave meals are some of the biggest problems. Marie Callender’s country fried beef, grilled chicken bake, tortellini Romano, and fettuccini alfredo dinners, for example, all contain at least 0.5 grams of trans fat each.
Asian crunchy noodles
La Choy’s ready-to-eat chow mein and rice noodles can provide a tasty crunch in salads or stir-fries, but they also deliver 1.5 grams of trans fat per 1/2-cup serving. (For a similar but heart-healthy crunch, try slivered almonds instead.)
Hydrogenated oils can also lurk in packages of ramen noodles and microwave soup cups.
Canned chili
Several varieties of Wolf Brand canned chili— — with and without beans—contain between 1 and 1.5 grams of trans fat per serving.
A better bet is the company’s trans-fat free turkey chili, which also has fewer calories and less saturated fat. (Or make your own with one of these healthy chili recipes!)
Packaged pudding
Snack Pack’s Dessert Twists Caramel Cream Pudding may be “made with real nonfat milk,” but it’s far from a health food. The caramel cream flavor contains 1 gram of trans fat, and all flavors pack between 8 percent and 10 percent of your daily allowance for saturated fat.
The brand’s other flavors all claim no trans fat on their nutrition labels, but it’s a good idea to read the ingredients list of any pudding or creamy dessert to rule out low levels of hydrogenated oils flying under the radar.

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11 Comments on "22 Worst Foods for Trans Fat"

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I am a diabetic….diagnosed in 1992 with a sugar reading of 1360…the doc said he should be seeing my in a coma in the hospital. Naturally that scared me, so I took the Heart Ass’n diet he gave me and went back to see him in 4 months. I was wearing an 18-20 dress when I first saw him and was down to a size 12 when I returned. And now in 2013, my morning sugar is between 90 and 95 every morning. I am very careful with portion size of meats and food that I eat and also portion size for veggies and fruits. I now eat a fruit at every meal: 1/2 banana for breakfast, grapes for lunch and blueberries or strawberries for dinner. I am now 80 years old and my usual doctor visit every 3 months and as of right now, no illness or treatment for… Read more »

Thanks for your article about trans fat in foods. I have heart disease and try to stay away from trans fat and fatty foods. This article has been an eye opener to me because some of these items I consume on a regular basis, such as the coffee-mate product. As a layperson trying to protect my health it becomes discouraging to learn that I am doing something wrong in this area but thank you for this knowledge.

Just a thought
My parants and grandparants we grew up on a farm and raised their on food, vegetables, eggs pork and chickens plus cured and cooked with lard. Both of my grandmothers lived into their mid to upper 90’s so what does that say. Think about it. Fast food grouth hormones preservatives And additives

As a Paleo and a follower of the Weston Price guidelines, I disagree with what the USDA proscribes. You obviously do not. I seek high-protein beef, pork, fish, and chicken. I believe saturated fats are good, polys are bad, trans obviously bad, and monos are acceptable. (Look up the chemistry of each and note the unfilled hydrogen slots. Same principle as oxidation.) So butter good; margarine bad. Eighty percent hamburger better than 90 percent. Whole milk (preferably raw) better than 2 percent. Avoid soy products altogether. What kills our midsections are the carbs and sugars, not animal fats. Man’s constitution is still “hunter-gatherer”. While grains helped civilization advance and avoid starvation by having great shelf life, our bodies do not handle it well. Dr. Wm Davis describes this fully in his “Wheat Belly” book. He recommends the unprocessed foods at the edge of the grocery store, and avoid the processed… Read more »
I have yet to see a recommended limit of daily trans-fat intake. According to the so-called experts who say “eat this – don’t eat that”, NOTHING is healthy for us as they often conflict with each other. Is the solution to become a Vegan the answer? I hope not, because you can’t wash off the toxic stuff from the farms. A friend of ours who was an RN had a very small waistline, was slender, ate salads, fish, etc., and jogged a couple of miles a day. She wound up dying of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in her late 50s, even though she was a poster girl for a very healthy lifestyle. She told me that her specialist at NIH theorized the causative factor was environmental. My wife and I eat healthy 90% of the time. I’ve lost 20 lbs in 8 months by having my first meal of the day at… Read more »

Amen!

You’d need to have a smart phone with you when shopping or a photograph memory or as Norm Crosby would say, a photogenic memory. Otherwise, how can you remember all of this. Is there a laminated cheat sheet out there?

It’s great that there is so much info out there but it can be somewhat intimidating for a 70 year old.

I guess one could base his food consumption on staying away from all foods with preservatives.

I blame many of the most serious health problems in this country on the foods we eat.

I really don’t know what to say about this article other than- almost useless. It is basically a list of things EVERYBODY on the planet knows some doctor has said not to eat. Even this list of lists was padded- ‘Anything fried or battered’ and yet there was a separate need for ‘Fried chicken’. There was one not on the list -If you’re genetically predisposed to heart problems then you’re….- that one needs to be on every list. I suppose that 50 years ago people were dropping like flies from cholesterol and salt and bacon and coffee (with real cream no less)…. although according to most the life expectancy charts, from today to 50 years ago is about 2-3 years different. So, if we have all of this knowledge and so many people are eating better then why only 2-3 years? Maybe someone is skewing the data for commercial or… Read more »

^^ Wow look who’s working for the food lobbyists …. ^^… Seriously you put a little too much defense information to sound like a legit random person pulling down the hype… Here is the problem with transfat… The pouring of it into our bodies in the 90’s has not caught up with us yet… Clogged arteries don’t go away with diet and exercise… They stay and get worse… You will see average age plateau or fall… Diabetes … Breast and Colin cancers are all on the rise… And caused by this artificial fat… .. Make people aware… Eat animal fats!!! Get lard to cook with… Live happy!! Sk

Don, life expectancy rate isn’t simple to understand as one would think…different kinds of lives and deaths are figured in the statistics. One needs to consider the improvements made in the medicine and the pharmaceutical fields that have saved and extent lives, not to mention the mortality rate has dropped considerably in the last 50-100 years. Not that long ago a 50 percent mortality rate was not unheard of. Many factors are considered in reaching the expectant life age.

Pamela Smith author who wrote this weeks article “22 Worst Foods for Trans Fat” is full of some thing and it is not trans fats. The 22 worst foods certainly has some validity but her advice is wrong. He advice should be “don’t eat any thing on this list”. The idea of micro wave popcorn being any thing but toxic is totally uninformed. First it is micro waved and that destroys all nutrients in all food, Teflon (very toxic) is in the bags to hold heat so it pops better, all the oils are unhealthy in the bags, and whole grains are very fattening particularly for diabetics. The wheat products are very fattening. Two slices of whole wheat toast for breakfast is equal to 6 to 7 teaspoons of sugar. Multiple that by a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner and you have exploding obesity and diabetes. She condemns… Read more »
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