"What are Trans Fats ?
Trans fats are doubly harmful because they lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. In fact, trans fatty acids have an even worse impact on cholesterol levels than diets high in butter, which contain saturated fat. A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences) concluded that trans fats are not safe to consume in any amount.
Are Trans Fats Bad for Kids?
Trans fats increase the risk for heart disease. Therefore, children who start at age 3 or 4 eating a steady diet of fast food, pop tarts, commercially prepared fish sticks, stick margarine, cake, candy, cookies and microwave popcorn can be expected to get heart disease earlier than kids who are eating foods without trans fats.
While a person may not get heart disease until they are in their 40s, some of our research here at the University of Maryland has shown that kids as young as 8, 9 and 10 already have the high cholesterol and blood fats that clog arteries. By starting healthy eating habits early, parents can help their children avoid heart attacks and stroke.
What Steps can Parents Take?
Model healthy eating behaviors, make healthy choices available.
Try new fruits, vegetables, bean, chicken and other foods and recipes. Cook or prepare food more often as a family. Guard against fatigue because a tired parent can rely too heavily on fast foods or highly processed foods.
Learn how to identify high fat and trans fat foods.
When foods have a label, review the ingredient listing. Avoid foods labeled "hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated canola, soybean or cottonseed oil." The listing order for hydrogenated fats is important; if it is listed first, second, or third, there is a lot of it in the food.
Foods that come from nature won't have trans or hydrogenated fats. Naturally low fat foods are generally the best: fruits of all types, vegetables, chicken, turkey, fish, beans, whole grains, breads and some cereals. These foods can be fixed in fun ways that your children will enjoy.
Learn the categories of foods that are likely to have trans fats:
• Fast foods - fried chicken, biscuits, fried fish sandwiches, French fries, fried apple or other pie desserts
• Donuts, muffins
• Most cookies
• Cake, cake icing, & pie
• Pop tarts
• Microwave popped corn
• Canned biscuits
• International and instant latte coffee beverages parents are more likely to use
Be a smart shopper
• Don't shop when you're hungry because you're more likely to make poor choices and buy on impulse when you shop on an empty stomach. If you take the children with you, give them a satisfying snack before you go. Stand firm in your plans about what you will and will not purchase.
• Shop the perimeter of the store. Most of the processed foods, which contain a lot of trans fats, are on the inner isles of the supermarket.
• Have a plan for quick meals, snacks and lunch items you plan to purchase. Buy foods that you can fix quickly at home such as stir-fry packages, rice or couscous, chicken and salmon you can grill.
• When you do purchase processed foods, choose the lower fat versions of crackers, cereals and desserts.
• Finally, remember that you are responsible for the quality of the foods you bring into the house for your children. Children eat the foods that are available to them."