Fruit snacks, granola bars and graham crackers: These are diet staples for many American children. Unfortunately, these items also are among the worst offenders for undisclosed trans fats. Moms trying to feed their children a nutritious diet need to dig deeper than the Nutrition Facts chart on their kids’ lunchbox favorites to keep them from eating more trans fats. Reading the ingredient list is a must. If it contains the word ‘hydrogenated’, it likely contains trans fats. If it lists palm oil, chances are the food is free of this unhealthy, industrially created ingredient.
The trans fat loophole revealed
Starting in 2006, the FDA has required food manufacturers to disclose the amount of trans fats on a product’s Nutrition Facts chart. But, this order also allowed manufacturers to list their trans fat content as zero if the food contained less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving. This resulted in many Americans eating more trans fats than they realized, especially when the listed serving size was unrealistically small.
Kids’ foods dominate the list of the worst “hidden fat” offenders
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group analyzed the food categories which were using this loophole. Foods marketed to children such as crackers, kids’ cereals, pretzels, puddings and snack cakes, were some of the worst offenders. “Children’s lower calorie needs and lower trans fats limits make the lack of disclosure of trans fat content even worse,” they state, going on to quote a 2012 study which found that 80 percent of children under 11 exceed the recommended trans fat daily intake.
Malaysian sustainable palm oil is a better choice
Many manufacturers are shying away from factory-created fats, and instead choosing Malaysian sustainable palm oil. This healthy, non-GMO tropical oil delivers the same texture and shelf-life qualities of partially hydrogenated oils, yet is naturally trans fat-free. It’s also a rich source of vitamin E. The source of palm oil matters. In the United States, many manufacturers demand Malaysian sustainable palm oil due to Malaysia’s history of producing palm oil which is good for the planet, as well as good for the people who tend the oil palm plantations.
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.