Did you know that trans fats are pretty much now illegal in packaged foods? Yep, it’s true: Last summer, the FDA finally took action and ruled that the fats, which lower good cholesterol, raise bad cholesterol, and increase risk for heart problems, must be removed from all food products by June 2018.
And while that’s all well and good for Future You, there are still many months before that deadline hits. In the meantime, many foods still harbor dangerous trans fats, even those with a label that says “0 grams trans fat.”
How the heck can that be? Manufacturers are allowed to say a food contains no trans fat if each serving has 0.5 g or less. But eat more than one serving size of, say, chips—and really, who sticks to nine measly chips?—and you could be eating 2 g or more of trans fat in no time, which is over the limit for good health, according to the World Health Organization.
For more proof, peep at this scandalous report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that exposes just how many products contain trans fat—more than a quarter of the items in the non-profit’s database of 84,000 grocery store products. Even worse: Some 87% of foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils—the most ubiquitous source of trans fat in our food supply—don’t disclose their trans fat content anywhere on the packaging. (Take back control of your eating—and lose weight in the process—with our 21-Day Challenge!)
How to avoid trans fat? Until 2018, when trans fats finally go the way of the dodo bird, read the ingredients list (where manufacturers can’t lie) and avoid anything that lists partially or fully hydrogenated oils. Here are the eight biggest offenders that are still sneaking trans fat into your diet, plus truly trans-fat-free options to buy instead.
1. Microwave popcorn
Popcorn enjoys a health halo since it’s a whole grain, but what it’s poppedin matters just as much—and microwave popcorn usually comes with lots of trans-fatty oils. The EWG found that some brands had 5 g of trans fat or more per 3-oz bag—more than double what’s recommended by the WHO.
2. Breakfast sandwiches
These precooked, pre-assembled sandwiches (usually found in the freezer case) pack about 1 g trans fat per serving, on average.
3. Coffee creamers
The main source of creaminess in most creamers is none other than trans fat. But because each 1 Tbsp serving is small enough to contain 0.5 g trans fat or less, the manufacturers get to say the product is “trans fat free.” Not true: In fact, EWG found that 100% of non-dairy creamers labeled “Trans Fat 0 g” contain it. And you’re probably not using just a single tablespoon in your joe—or drinking just one coffee a day, for that matter.
4. Frozen pies and cakes
These desserts, like Key lime pie and sprinkle-dusted birthday cakes, rely on trans fat for texture and long shelf life in their crusts, fillings, and frostings. For pies, each serving has an average of 0.8 g trans fat. Cakes deliver about 0.5 g per serving.
5. Canned frosting
Partially hydrogenated oil is often one of the first ingredients listed in these premade icings. No surprise then that each 2 Tbsp serving has an average of 0.75 g trans fat.
6. Breakfast bars, granola, and trail mix bars
Not all bars are virtuous: Just as with coffee creamers, the EWG found that 100% of bars with a “Trans Fat 0 g” label really did contain the dangerous ingredient. When buying bars (unless you’re choosing from our Cleanest Packaged Foods list), read the label to make sure they contain no hydrogenated oils.
Just ’cause it’s a fancy pastry doesn’t mean it can escape the clutches of trans fat. The packaged ones you buy at the grocery store have almost a half gram of trans fat each.
8. Canned chili
Canned foods can be totally clean—but this kind definitely isn’t. A serving of canned chili without beans has an average of 0.36 g trans fat.
Finally, remember that manufacturers can never lie in the ingredients list. To make sure you’re really avoiding trans fat, check ingredients lists and skip products that contain any partially hydrogenated oils. Then, try to limit products with refined oils (like corn, cottonseed, soybean, and canola) and fully hydrogenated oils, which can contain trace amounts of trans fat, too.