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How to Snack and Avoid the Fat

(ARA) - If your idea of snacking is munching on cookies, crackers and microwave popcorn throughout the day, shame on you. The majority of the snack foods on grocery store shelves these days aren't good for you. They contain unhealthy trans fatty acids -- a type of fat formed when liquid oils are made into solid fats.

Trans fatty acid, also known as trans fat, is present in vegetable shortening, some margarines, baked goods, fried foods, processed foods, salad dressings and snack foods, such as crackers, potato chips and microwave popcorn. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates the average daily intake of trans fats in the U.S. population is about 5.8 grams or 2.6 percent of calories per day for individuals 20 years of age and older. Many say this level of intake can be unhealthy.

"Trans fat is one of the worst things you can put in your body," says Chris Freytag, ShopNBC's health and fitness correspondent. "It lowers your good cholesterol (HDL) and raises your bad cholesterol (LDL), putting you at higher risk for coronary heart disease. Trans fats are placed into food to increase shelf life, but they "decrease human life," adds Freytag, "and since its presence isn't noted on food labels, a lot of people don't realize how at risk they are."

That will soon change. Last July, the FDA issued a regulation requiring manufacturers to add trans fat to the Nutrition Facts panel of foods and some dietary supplements. Some of the bigger food companies have already updated their labels, but companies have until January 1, 2006, to make the change.

So what should you do in the meantime? "Until they change the food labels, it's really buyer beware," says Freytag. "But there are a few things you can look for on the current food labels that are a good tip-off."

Freytag recommends consumers look for the terms hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. "If you see one or the other, that means the product contains trans fat, and the higher up on the list it appears, the higher in trans fat the product is," she says. Freytag also recommends consumers "do the math." If the product says it contains 4 grams of fat but only 2 are listed as saturated fats, she says you should ask yourself what kind of fat makes up the other two grams, then look for the words partially hydrogenated on the list of ingredients.

She also recommends you make every effort to change your diet. "Fill up on whole grains, vegetables, lean meats and fish during meals; and stick with fruits and low-fat dairy products for snacks," she says. "They contain little or no trans fat." Another snack option for people watching their trans fat intake: Simply Right Light Shakes, which are sold exclusively on ShopNBC.com.

The shakes contain 21 grams of protein, 19 vitamins and minerals, essential amino acids, and less than 2 grams of fat. They are aspartame free and contain no trans fat or fillers. "You can add fresh fruit, milk or juice to make a smoothie or just blend them with ice and water. They make great snacks or meal substitutes," she says.

ShopNBC also has a line of dietary supplements that are all natural and contain no additives, no artificial fillers, and no hydrogenated oils. For more information about these products, or to ask Chris Freytag a health or nutrition question, log on to www.shopnbc.com/health&fitness.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Chris Freytag is a lifestyle and weight management consultant certified by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Courtesy of ARA Content

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