The FDA Says Sayonara to Trans Fat

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transfat1What do donuts, microwaveable popcorn, and frozen pizza have in common? If you answered that they are delicious, you are not alone. But, they are also among the most unhealthy foods for you. Donuts, microwaveable popcorn, and frozen pizza, along with fried or processed foods contain trans fats.

On Thursday, November 7, 2013, the Food and Drug Administration all but banned trans fats when officials announced trans fats no longer fit into the “generally recognized as safe” category. That means that any company that wants to use trans fat in its products first must petition the FDA for permission. The FDA will collect comments from the food industry for the next two months before setting a phase-out timeline. Different foods will have different end-dates for using trans fat. No need to hoard the microwaveable popcorn and other treats. With some tweaks to the recipes—out with the trans fat, in with a substitute ingredient—you will still find  your favorite treats in restaurants and grocery stores. And, without the trans fat, the new recipes will be less harmful.

The Fats Familytransfat3

American obesity is an unhealthy epidemic. Fats often bear the brunt of the blame. But, fats are not categorically bad. Visit the American Heart Association site and get the skinny on fat. The Q and A page shares why fats are necessary, explains the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats, and introduces the four types of fat that make up the fats family.

Come meet the fats family and read five facts about them. Spend more time with the better fats sisters, Mon, and Poly. Watch the better fats sisters video. Next, visit the black sheep of the family, the bad fats brothers, Sat, and Trans. Watch the bad fats brothers video. Compare Mon and Poly’s menu with Sat’s and Trans’ tasty-but-bad-for-you foods. View an infographic of the family, Fats: Good, Bad, Ugly.

transfat2Unlike the rest of the fats family, trans fat does not exist in foods naturally. Trans fat is a chemical invention that was born in a laboratory. The video, Time ExplainsTrans Fat, shares how trans fats are created and what makes them so dangerous.  For a more in-depth examination of the dangers of trans fats, watch the slightly longer video, The Dangers of Trans Fats. Read more about the history of trans fat to discover when trans fat was created and when it became popular. Explore the Q and A of trans fats. With your brain now full of trans fat knowledge, you are ready to take the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS) trans fat and fiction quiz.

Be Fat Smart

As American’s waistlines expanded, health care providers lobbied to eliminate trans fats. Restaurant chains, the food industry, health agencies, and state governments began targeting trans fats. The recipes for many foods have already been reformulated and their trans fats replaced with healthier ingredients. But, trans fat still lurks in some of the most popular foods. Check out the 22 worst foods for trans fat.


How do consumers know where trans fats are hiding? The answer is the nutrition label. Nutrition labels include information about fat content , including a line specifically about trans fat. It is important to know that nutrition labels round down. Foods with less than .5 grams of trans fat can be legally labeled they contain 0 trans fat. Those .49 grams of trans fat per serving add up. Smart eaters read nutrition labels and the list of ingredients. Look for partially hydrogenated oil in the list of ingredients. That is the sign trans fat lurks here. Do not think that once trans fats are removed, you have a green light to eat treats with abandon. Simply removing trans fats from a food does not mean it becomes healthy.

transfat4From Bad to Better

If all this talk of what not to eat has left you wandering what to put on your plate, WPAHS shares what a healthy diet should include and a list of healthy fats to put on your plate. The goal is to go from bad fats to better fats. The American Heart Association tool, My Fats Translator, provides personalized recommendations for calorie and fat consumption, and suggestions that will help you move from bad to better foods.

It is possible to cook and to bake without including the bad fats brothers. The American Heart Association shares recipes for delicious alternatives to your bad fat favorites and fat-smart substitutions you can make when baking or cooking.


Newspaper Activities

As you read the newspaper, look for information about the local food scene. Read the restaurant reviews, and health department ratings. Look for new recipes you might try, and articles about health, nutrition, and policies that effect food programs. What local programs exist at Thanksgiving to help those in need? What programs exist to assist children? Create a menu of articles and features related to food that you find interesting and want to share with others.

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