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Give Your Pantry a Healthy Makeover

Spring Cleaning? Here's What to Toss and What to Buy

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Step 3: Eliminate or greatly reduce saturated and trans fats in your pantry.

Nothing good, healthwise, can come from eating trans fats. Some experts advise that trans and saturated fats together should make up no more than 10% of our total calories. Others say our trans fat intake should be as close to zero as possible.

But until food companies start changing the way they make certain products, wherever there are processed foods, there are bound to be trans fats and/or saturated fats. Trans fats hide in thousands of processed foods -- margarine, shortening, crackers, cookies, snack cakes, cereal bars, microwave popping corn, and frozen convenience foods and snacks.

Some people may be able to purge their pantries of these convenience foods, but having them around is part of life for many of us. The answer? Better choices abound out there in packaged-food land.

Food companies have until January 2006 to start listing how many grams of trans fats their products contain on labels. But in the meantime, here are some general rules to follow:

  • When a product label lists "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" vegetable oils or shortening among the first three ingredients, it contains saturated and trans fats.
  • If a product lists the grams of saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fat, you can figure out roughly how much trans fat is in a serving by adding up these three numbers and subtracting this amount from the total grams of fat listed on the label.
  • Even foods that claim to have no trans fats can contribute them to your diet. A food company can label a product as having "zero" trans fats if it has .5 grams or less per serving. And the trans fats can add up if you eat lot of these foods.
  • Choose processed foods with fewer total grams of fat. Reduced-fat options tend to have a lot less saturated fat and trans fat per serving than their regular counterparts.

Here are some examples of reduced-fat foods with lower trans fat counts than their regular twins:

  • Ritz Crackers: 160 calories, 8 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat (per 32-gram serving)
  • Reduced Fat Ritz: 140 calories, 4 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat (per 30-gram serving)
  • Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theatre Butter Microwave Popping Corn: 170 calories, 12 grams fat, 2.5 grams saturated fat (per 4 cups popped)
  • Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop: 110 calories, 2 grams fat, and 0 grams saturated fat (per 7.5 cups popped)
  • Bisquick: 160 calories 6 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat (per 1/3-cup mix)
  • Reduced Fat Bisquick: 140 calories, 3 grams fat, .5 grams saturated fat (per 1/3-cup mix)

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Reviewed on March 06, 2006

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