Restaurants and grocery stores are danger zones when it comes to trans fats. Know what to watch out for.

2016 Diet Priority #1: Ban Trans Fats

Good news! The F.D.A. has finally issued new rules on trans fats requiring companies to ban the harmful additives by 2018. The bad news: Labels can list a food as trans fat-free if it contains 0.5 grams per serving or less – and manufacturers often reduce portion sizes to get around this rule.

What to do? Search ingredient lists for the words “partially hydrogenated” or “shortening” and be on the alert for the foods most likely to contain trans fat. Here are the most frequent offenders:

1. Partially hydrogenated oils. Prepackaged baked goods of all kinds use these chemically treated fats to stay fresh and maintain their texture. Culprits can include crackers (including wheat, stone ground, and other so-called “healthy” varieties) cookies, cakes, frozen pizza, and refrigerated dough (biscuits and cinnamon rolls).

2. Rich treats. If a store-bought food has a rich, creamy texture, there’s a good chance that texture comes at least partially from trans fat. Examples include frozen desserts, tinned frosting, pudding, and coffee creamer. Avoid them or keep portion sizes down, and when possible replace with the natural or homemade alternative.

3. Battered and fried foods. Any fried food may be cooked in partially hydrogenated oils, so beware of fried chicken, breaded fish, onion rings, and other similar foods. Stick to homemade versions and whole foods for a healthier choice.

4. Secret hideouts. Here are a few more surprising places trans fats hide:

  • Microwave popcorn
  • Canned chili
  • Margerine
  • French fries
  • Crispy Asian noodles
  • Ice cream
  • Potato chips
  • Pie and piecrust Cake mixes
  • Pancake and waffle mix
  • Fast-food breakfast sandwiches
  • Slim Jims and other pre-cooked meat sticks
  • Frozen dinners

Where can you spot – and avoid – trans fats today?

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.