Saturated fat, the artery-clogging, “bad” LDL cholesterol-raising fat found in many animal foods including cheese, beef, milk, ice cream, and butter used to be the most talked about unhealthy fat. Now trans fats have recently taken center stage, as they raise the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels which promote heart disease and also lower “good” HDL cholesterol, the kind that protects us. Many fast food restaurants have taken steps to decrease the trans fat found in their menu items, by switching to trans fat-free cooking oils. New York and some other states have banned or are seeking a ban on this harmful fat in restaurants. In June 2015, the FDA deemed that trans fats are not safe in food, but the total removal of artificial trans fats from food will not occur until 2018. Until then, the burden lies with consumers to learn to recognize the harmful fats in foods to make more healthful selections when shopping for food or eating at a restaurant.
While some experts believe we should avoid trans fats altogether, the American Heart Association recommends we limit our intake of trans fat to no more than 1% of total calories. For a typical American who consumes 2,000 calories a day, that’s 20 calories or approximately 2 grams a day. For children who average between 1,000 and 1,800 calories a day, that’s about 1 to 1 1/2 grams of trans fats per day. Most of the trans fat we eat come from processed and packaged foods like margarine, cupcakes, cookies, baked goods, salad dressings, breakfast and granola-type bars, waffles, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, French fries, and many packaged bread. If you’re like many American parents, that may sound like your child’s typical diet!
The bottom line is to consume a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and minimize added fats and sugars. This will help you and your child achieve and maintain a healthful body weight to get the key nutrients you need.
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