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Finding the Best Trans Fat Alternatives

Now that trans fats are out of many snack foods, what’s in?

Shopping Savvy for a Post Trans-Fat World

While the food industry searches for the best trans fat alternatives, what can consumers do?

First, read the nutrition label carefully. Products that claim they have 0 trans fat may be high in saturated fat - or simply very high in calories.

Second, understand that you're probably still eating small amounts of trans fats even if the package says 0 trans fats. According to the new FDA guidelines, a product can have up to nearly 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving and still carry the "0" trans fat label.

"This may not seem like much but it can add up," says Heller.

According to the American Heart Association, we should all limit our trans fat intake to less than 1% of our total daily calories. So if you eat 2,000 calories a day that works to about 20 calories from trans fat - less than 2 grams a day.

Since some whole foods - such as dairy and meat - contain naturally occurring trans fats, the only way to stay under that 2 gram a day limit is to buy snack foods, baked goods, margarine, and fast food with absolutely no trans fats, dietitians say.

But don't forget about saturated fat. Evaluate the total fat content, including the amount of saturate fat. Choose foods that have the least amount of saturated fat and that use healthy oils, such as canola oil.

Baking Without Trans Fats

For snacks truly free of trans fats, you might want to try the same solution that Grandma used: Make your own.

For those willing to put in the time and effort, baking your own cakes and cookies from scratch may be the way to go. The trick: Combine a healthy liquid fat -- like grapeseed oil, walnut oil, or vegetable oil spreads-- with a fruit puree like applesauce or prunes for bulk and texture. For healthier french fries, choose an oil without trans fat -- such as canola oil -- and slice your fries from a whole fresh potato.

Be sure to "count the calories and eat in moderation," Heller reminds us. Just because an oil is unsaturated, or a cookie homemade, doesn't mean you won't gain weight.

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Reviewed on December 17, 2008

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