Trans Fats Lurking

As of January 2006, all food labels had to add Trans Fat to the nutrition profile on packaged foods.  However, there’s a catch!  If the product has less than 0.5 grams per serving, it can list the amount as 0 grams! Guess what?  There is no safe level of trans fat, so if the product contains 0.45 grams per serving and you eat multiple servings (foods like crackers and cookies it’s easy to do) you may be ingesting more than you bargained for.

At the conference I attended last week, I left with lots of samples of new products to try.  Since there were so many I did not spend the time to read the label of each and every one.  At the Quaker booth, I took a sample of their new “Fiber & Omega-3 Dark Chocolate Chunk Granola Bar.”

Granola Bar

Ingredients: Granola (whole grain rolled oats, sugar, rice flour, brown sugar, whole grain rolled wheat, coconut oil, partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils and/or sunflower oil*, whole wheat flour, molasses, honey, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, caramel color, salt, barley malt, nonfat dry milk, vanilla extract, whey sodium caseinate), oligofructose, semisweet chocolate chunks (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, salt, vanilla), crisp rice (rice, sugar, salt, barley malt), flaxseed, sugar, corn syrup, fructose, partially hydrogenated palm kern oil*, glycerin, sunflower oil, natural and artificial flavor, molasses, cocoa (processed with alkali), water, buttermilk, cocoa, salt, milkfat, soy lecithin, hydrogenated palm oil*, sorbitan monostearate, polysorbate 60.

*adds a dietarily insignificant amount of trans fat
That note is on the label.
Besides the incredibly long list of ingredients, it is very disheartening that a product that boasts to be high in nutritional value (fiber & omega 3s) contains trans fat.  Not only do they use it one time, but it’s in there three times!
Nutrition Tidbit:
  • Product labels can be quite deceiving, before grabbing a new product just because it boasts something high in nutrition, make sure to do your homework!
  • Read the nutrition facts label – in packaged foods like this make sure to look out for saturated & trans fat, sodium, fiber and sugar.
  • Read the ingredients!  The list should be short.  You should be able to pronounce almost everything, and if you can’t look it up to see what it is!
  • Do not buy anything with trans fat – partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Watch out for MSG – monosodium glutamate.
  • Be aware of added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols.
  • What is the product claiming?  See how they substantiate their claim.  You are already seeing a lot of products with added fiber and omega-3s.  Before you buy into these claims, think about how you can get these sources naturally.

6 Responses

  1. Reading the labels is so important. I just don’t understand why companies continue to use these junk ingredients in the products. I’m sure they can get away with it most of the time (since majority of people don’t actually read labels) but is it worth it? So unethical in my opinion!

    • They like to use trans fat, because it’s cheap and shelf stable. Unfortunately those benefits are stronger to the manufacturer than the health of the product. However, manufacturers are slowly changing and the products out there are better today than they used to be, but we still have a long way to go! I’m working on educating as many people as I can, as dietitians we have a big job ahead of us.

  2. I absolutely hate when companies do this, especially when it says trans-fat free on the package!!! 1 serving can quickly add up even if it’s less than 0.5 g or less. Thanks for the tips!

  3. I have a question about starch. I really enjoy Kashi granola bars and they do not have any trans fat, however in the carbs listing, it says it has 4 grams of fibre, 8 grams of sugar and 12 grams of starch per 130 cal/bar. Is starch something you should limit? I find this happens with cereals as well. Any suggestions/comments would be appreciated.

    p.s. I’ve just recently started reading your blog and I love it. I tried the spaghetti squash receipe and it was delicious.

    • Starch is a type of carbohydrate – so on the label total carbohydrates are broken down into fiber, sugar and starch. Starch is a necessary part of the human diet, it’s found in plants. When you read the nutrition label, choose products low in added sugars (limit these), and high in fiber (from natural sources). Kashi granola bars are a nutritious snack!

      Glad you enjoyed the squash.

  4. Fabulous post! It is refreshing to see how honest you are. i always feel like I leave reading your blog having gained added insight to make nutritious choices in my day, so thank you!
    -Joelle (The Pancake Girl)

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