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The eaters guide to fast foods

Avoiding Trans Fats

by Susan Stevensen, M.Ed., LDN
Licensed Dietitian

In my last column, I wrote about trans fats, what they are, and why they are so harmful to you. Today I want to explore how to get the best nutrition possible from fast foods and other restaurants, and how to avoid the worst.

Let’s face it, fast foods are a fact of life for most of us. But choosing wisely can make a huge difference in how you feel, how you look, how often you go to the doctor, and even how many medications you take.

This morning on my drive to work, I heard a radio show host describe how “good” those homemade biscuits are at a local fast food restaurant. This word is relative. If “good” means a high-trans-fat, high-calorie food chemically altered to promote weight gain and cause heart disease and breast cancer, then the word is used correctly.

Research has proven these facts to be the truth. A study at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1997 found a 40 per cent higher risk of breast cancer in women who had higher levels of trans fatty acids. If you have a history of breast cancer in your family, you should avoid trans fats like the plague. Numerous studies have also proven that trans fat causes heart disease and higher weight gain.

Until fast food companies and restaurants agree to eliminate trans fats and decrease saturated fats on their menus, I urge all readers to avoid these disease-causing ingredients. Here is a list that you can clip out and carry with you to all restaurant visits.


Salads, regular or with grilled chicken
Broiled Burgers (quarter lb. or less)
Roast Beef sandwich
Baked Potato
Frozen Yogurt
Fruit Cup or Applesauce
Baked Potato Chips or Pretzels
Steamed or Broiled Vegetables
Grilled or Broiled Chicken sandwiches
Broiled Seafood
BBQ sandwich
Egg or Ham English muffin
Submarine or Hero sandwiches
Grits, Toast, Rice
Corn on the cob
Orange Juice or Low-fat Milk


French Fries
Any Fried Fish or Seafood
Fried Chicken
Hush Puppies
French Toast Sticks
Any Fried Food Item
Chicken Nuggets
Onion Rings
Biscuits or Croissants
Sausage or Bacon
Pastry, Pies, or Pot Pies
Donuts, Cakes, or Cookies

Restaurants can do their part by providing healthier choices and making them available to customers. I would also urge restaurants to advertise to the public if they have eliminated trans fats in food preparation. Remember, in today’s climate, with the demand for healthier food choices, healthy foods are profitable, not only for restaurants, but also for individuals who are looking to reap health benefits.

Good Food, Good Friends, and Good Life.