Fat Shockers: Surprisingly High-Fat Foods
Check out this list of fatty foods lurking in your grocery store.
I've been reading food labels and writing about health for at least two decades, but even I am sometimes shocked to discover how much fat, saturated fat, or trans fat a food actually contains.
Below, I've listed more than 35 food products I saw as I walked the aisles of my supermarket that were surprisingly high in fat.
But first, let me tell you what I was looking for and what you might want to look for as you consider your options on future supermarket trips.
Sleuthing for Fat
One of the first things I look for when eyeing the nutrition information label on a food is how many grams of fat the item has. Right under that, I find the grams of saturated fat and, for some products, trans fat.
I also check out the serving size. That's important because some companies -- often the ones selling especially high-fat foods -- list a serving size as half of a muffin, half a chicken pot pie, or half a candy bar. So if you're eating the whole muffin, pot pie, or candy bar, you'll need to double the numbers.
There are frozen pot pies on the market that list 1/2 of a pot pie as the serving size on the package. So if you eat the entire pie you'll get 62 grams of fat not the 31 that's listed and 22 grams of saturated fat not 11. But even the numbers for half the pot pie are quite shocking.
Why should you be concerned about high-fat foods? It's true there are health benefits to favoring preferred fats such as monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. And certain higher-fat foods -- including nuts, avocado, salmon, and olive oil -- do contribute to health in limited amounts.
But the total amount of fat is important because it can be a red flag for foods high in potentially health-damaging fats: saturated fat and trans fat. Also, compared to carbohydrates and protein, each gram of fat has twice as many calories.
Of course, you need to be aware of saturated fat and trans fat in foods. Saturated fats are known to raise cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. They may also increase the risk of certain cancers.
Trans fats hit you with a double whammy. In addition to raising levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, they also decrease your HDL ("good") cholesterol. Many researchers suspect that trans fats increase the risk not only for heart disease but also for type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
How Much Is Too Much?
Saturated fat: Experts with the National Cholesterol Education Program recommend that less than 7% of total calories come from saturated fat. That's 16 grams per day for a person eating 2,000 calories. Some of these products listed below get you most of the way there with one serving.
Trans fat: Experts advise eating as few trans fats as possible. The American Heart Association advises limiting trans fats to less than 1% of total daily calories. If you need 2,000 calories a day, this computes to less than 2 daily grams of trans fats. Some of the products listed below exceed this limit with one serving.