You may have heard the news: Trans-Fats are going away for good! This is very important as we have knows for years that trans-fats are detrimental to our heart health, but this latest news will be a nail in the coffin for these partially hydrogenated oils.

According to the FDA, trans-fats are not Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for human consumption. By 2018, manufacturers will have to find alternative fats to use in their products. Many cities across the country have already taken steps throughout the years to ban trans-fats from restaurant use starting with New York and even here in Philadelphia, but this ban will affect the entire country.

So what are trans-fats and why are they so bad anyway? Trans-fats are not found much in nature. They do occur naturally in small amounts in some meats and animal products, but not to the same degree that we use in processed foods. They are used in manufacturing cookies, cakes and other baked goods (vegetable shortening such as Crisco is a source of these processed trans fats) as the fat is prized for it’s ability to keep products shelf stable and provides the flakiness in crusts. Some stick margarines, potato chips and even microwave popcorn can have some trans-fats hidden in them.

The reason why we want to avoid them is because they increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Trans-fats are found to increase our “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and decrease our “good” HDL cholesterol levels. The hope is that we could potentially reduce heart disease and even prevent heart attacks by reducing the amount of trans-fats in our diet.

We still have a few years until this ban takes place. In the mean time, you need to be aware of these trans-fats and take a closer look at the foods you choose. On the package, a product can claim that it has 0g of trans-fat, as long as it has under 0.49g per serving. This can be tricky because you may think it is a good choice, but you have no way of knowing how much trans-fat is truly in there. What you can do is look at the ingredient list. The other name for trans-fats is “partially hydrogenated oils”. If the label states that the product has 0g of trans-fats, but you want to be sure, look in the ingredient list. If it lists partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient, then you know there is some degree of trans-fat in that product.

Your best bet is to limit your consumption of processed foods in general. If you want some baked goods, bake it yourself and be mindful of the ingredients that you use. If you want popcorn, make it at home – it’s simple!

If you have any other questions about trans-fats or heart health, consult a Family Food Registered Dietitian. We are here to help!

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This is another entry in our Best of Breakfast series in which we have been looking at some healthy choices when resorting to eating breakfast at a fast food restaurant. We have looked at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts so far and have found some pretty good options. Today, we take a look at McDonald’s which unfortunately does not fair as well. With only a handful of breakfast items worth choosing, you may want to find an alternative or better yet, make something at home!

 

This is not your best yogurt option if you are on the run, but one of the better choices at McDonalds. For example, a non-fat strawberry flavored greek yogurt would be similar in Calories, lower in sugar and fat, have 3 times the protein content all while saving you some money.

Fruit ‘n yogurt Parfait (with low-fat granola and berries)
Calories 150
Fat 2g
Carbs 30g
Sugars 23g
Fiber 1g
Protein 4g
Sodium 80mg

Though this sandwich may be lighter in Calories than other options, the “liquid margarine” contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil aka Trans Fats (though not enough to list it on the nutrition facts) which are generally NOT recognized as safe. On the plus side, the egg whites are 100% egg whites and this sandwich does contain a fair amount of fiber. All things considered, this is probably still one of the better breakfast options at the golden arches.

Egg White Delight McMuffin (with Canadian style bacon, cheese)

Calories 250
Fat 8g
Carbs 30g
Sugars 3g
Fiber 4g
Protein 18g
Sodium 770mg

Oatmeal is a great source of soluble fiber, which can be beneficial to your heart health. The standard choice isn’t the worst, but a bulk of the Calories come from sugar.

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (oatmeal with brown sugar, diced apples, cranberry raisin blend, light cream)
Calories 290
Fat 4g
Carbs 58g
Sugars 32g
Fiber 5g
Protein 5g
Sodium 160

Opt for the oatmeal without brown sugar and hold the “cranberry raisin blend” and you will save 100 Calories, most of which coming from sugar – 29g of sugar!

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (oatmeal without brown sugar, no cranberry raisin blend, with diced apples and light cream)
Calories 190
Fat 4g
Carbs 33g
Sugars 3g
Fiber 4g
Protein 5g
Sodium 110mg

 

As you can see, there are not many great choices for breakfast at McDonald’s, but you can put together something relatively healthy if you are in a pinch.

See McDonald’s nutrition facts for further information.

Looking for a new way to reach your daily 5 servings of fruits and vegetables? Try some asparagus! This seasonal vegetable is tender and tasty. In fact, most people who don’t eat vegetables usually warm up to the idea of asparagus. Try serving it to your picky eaters! Asparagus is abundant in vitamin K which is important for blood coagulation (caution if you are taking blood thinners such as Coumadin), folate which is essential for preventing neural tube defects during pregnancy, selenium which is an important antioxidant, and a good source of B vitamins which are integral to energy production, just to name a few. One cup of asparagus contains just 27 Calories and 3g of fiber. The fiber contained in asparagus is considered a prebiotic. Think of it as the food for the probiotics in our digestive tract, which helps to keep our “good bacteria” thriving for optimal digestive health.

A great and simple way to prepare asparagus is to drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top, season with freshly cracked pepper and salt, and grill it for a few minutes until tender. Serve as-is, or squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on top before serving to brighten up the flavor. Enjoy!