11 Sneaky Sources of Trans Fats

From cereal bars to oatmeal, these foods have a trans fat content that may surprise you.

Photo By: Alex Skopje

Photo By: Andy Dean ©Andy Dean Photography

Photo By: T. McNem

Photo By: Florence Natale

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Bhofack2

French Fries

Many restaurants and fast-food joints fry their french fries, fish, chicken and doughnuts in partially hydrogenated oils and shortenings, making these foods filled with trans fats. The FDA is considering a ban on partially hydrogenated oils, but they’re still rampant in processed foods. Unless you're in New York City, Philadelphia or California, where trans fats have been banned from restaurants, there's a good chance fried foods are a source of trans fat (exceptions include many major chains, which have switched to trans fat-free oils as trans fats have come under the lens of public scrutiny).

Baked Goods (Doughnuts, Pastries, Cupcakes, Biscuits)

Baked goods are a big trans fat offender. Commercially made doughnuts, pastries and biscuits often substitute trans fat-laden partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening for butter. After all, baked goods benefit from a sturdy saturated fat, and trans fats masquerade as that — but their health effects are even more harmful. Homemade baked goods will be trans fat-free as long as you use canola oil and butter in place of shortening or margarine.

Cereal Bars

Don't be fooled by the health glow of cereal bars. Many of these bars harbor partially hydrogenated oil, as well as a boatload of added sugars and artificial colors. If you love cereal bars but don’t love trans fats, just make sure to scan the ingredients on the nutrition facts label. If you see the words "partially hydrogenated," move on.

Peanut Butter

While natural peanut butter (made from just peanuts and maybe some salt) is filled with healthy unsaturated oils, some brands of peanut butter contain partially hydrogenated oils. Others contain fully hydrogenated oils, which do not contain trans fats (they're saturated fats, though, meaning they're still not healthy), so check the ingredient list.

Granola Bars and Energy Bars

There are a lot of bars on the market, and they vary wildly in terms of their ingredients. One major brand of bars, while boasting fiber and antioxidants, contains partially hydrogenated palm oil — not exactly a health food.

Instant Oatmeal

Oatmeal is the ultimate health food — so wholesome and full of fiber — but when food manufacturers add flavor to it, watch out. Some brands of flavored instant oatmeal (and cream of wheat, too) contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil. For the healthiest oatmeal, make your own. 

Coffee Creamers

If you buy coffee creamer because you enjoy the flavor, you might want to consider simply switching to flavored coffee. Coffee creamers often contain partially hydrogenated oils, the buzzword for "trans fats." By the way, even the fat-free coffee creamers typically pack more calories than half-and-half (which only has 20 calories per tablespoon), so whether you're persuaded by heart health or a healthy weight, ditch the coffee creamer. Flavored coffee and milk or half-and-half: It's the way to go.

Gravy Mixes

If you've been relying on gravy mixes to help out at holiday meals, you may have been unwittingly consuming trans fats. Many of these mixes — and plenty of other packaged sauces, for that matter — have partially hydrogenated oils in them. Skip the trans fats with homemade gravy.


You knew that hamburgers had saturated fat in them, but trans fat? Turns out that many fast-food restaurants add partially hydrogenated oils to their patties, giving them at least a trace of trans fat. Leave these as a once-in-a-while treat. Or make them at home using lean ground beef or, better yet, lean ground turkey.


Soft, tender flour tortillas don't need to contain trans fat, but some kinds do. Partially hydrogenated oils lurk in some brands of tortillas, so again, check the ingredient list.

Snack Mixes and Crackers

You probably weren't thinking snack mixes were the healthiest choice to begin with, and you're right. In addition to an endless list of added colors, flavors and sugars, partially hydrogenated oils often make an appearance. Even some innocuous-seeming crackers (like Goldfish), which are fine in their standard flavors, suddenly get a dose of trans fat in certain flavors. 

Next Up

What's So Bad About Trans Fats?

These dangerous fats lurk in lots of packaged foods. Find out what they are and how to avoid them.

Trans Fats: What the News Means

Everyone is talking about the FDA’s call for the removal of artificial trans fats from the food supply. What does this mean for the future of your diet?

In the News: The Fatty Food Tax, Unilever Ditches Trans Fat & Steroids in Diet Supplements

From this week’s headlines: Denny’s sued for high sodium, higher costs for high fat foods, and optional toppings not part of nutrition info

Reading List: Exercise Beats the Flu, Trans Fats-Related Heart Attacks & China's New Rice

In this week’s nutrition news: More evidence that obesity decreases your life expectancy, drinking sugary sodas may lead to diabetes during pregnancy and China will soon produce genetically modified rice.

Nutrition News: Healthy Food Choices, Fructose and Trans Fat Under Fire, Top Produce Picks in June

Researchers urge focus on healthy food benefits, fructose study has startling results, the FDA may ban trans fats, and get the top produce pick for June.

Importance of Healthy Fats

How much fat should you eat each day, and what does it do? Find out.

In the News: Super-Bred Veggies, Teen Weight-Loss Getaways, Trans-Fat Label Confusion & More

Dole is producing new super veggies, top chefs share their healthy secrets and not many Americans are walking or biking to work these days (are you?).

Saturated Fat: Facts vs. Fiction

We clear up some of the common points of confusion about saturated fat with tips from the experts at Food Network.