20 Popular Foods With Hidden Trans Fat

Unhealthy trans fat is still lurking in many popular foods.

The Food and Drug Administration requires food manufacturers and restaurants to list it on the nutrition label if a serving contains more than 0.5 grams. So, trace amounts of trans fat may be listed as zero grams. Multiple servings of food with a little less than 0.5 grams can add up to a significant intake.

Trans fat can be dangerous for your health because it increases the risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes.

Some of the most prominent trans fat offenders are baked goods, fried foods, and some chain restaurant fare. Here are 21 popular foods that may be hidden sources of trans fat.

Anything Fried or Battered

Some animal products naturally have trans fat, such as cow's milk and meat products. Manufacturers also increase trans fats by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, turning liquid fat into a solid, also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. That process helps the product last longer than average.

Many restaurants use that oil to make foods, such as: 

  • French fries
  • Fried chicken 
  • Potato wedges
  • Fried fish
  • Other fried snacks

Eating trans fat can increase your risk of coronary heart disease and all forms of mortality. Not frying food in partially hydrogenated oils can significantly reduce the amount of trans fat in on-the-go foods.

Still, some restaurants have products that have trans fat listed on their nutrition labels. In 2022, a serving of large Cajun fries from Popeyes, for example, contained two grams of trans fat.

Nutritional information might be challenging to find for small and local restaurants. But one way to locate any trans fat content is to look at the establishment's website to see what oil they use. Or you can ask when you get to the restaurant if that content is not listed.

Whether the restaurant uses partially hydrogenated oil, it's generally better for your heart to stay clear of fried foods.

Pie and Piecrust

Some baked products may contain trans fat. But many major restaurant chains have removed partially hydrogenated oils from their apple pies.

However, you can still find trans fat in pie or pie crust varieties at your local grocery store. If in doubt, always check the label. Manufacturers must list the trans fat content of foods.

Margarine Sticks

Margarine was previously marketed as a healthier alternative to butter because it's made from vegetable oil instead of dairy or animal products. 

But for the margarine to maintain its solid form, many types, mainly stick varieties, depend on partially hydrogenated oils high in trans or saturated fat. So, steer clear of regular sticks and opt for whipped, reduced-fat, or fat-free soft spreads.


Crisco has come a long way in terms of trans fat. As of 2022, the shortening contains zero grams of trans fat. But a closer look at the ingredients list shows that Crisco included partially hydrogenated oils in the mix.

Companies can round down and put "zero grams" on their nutrition labels if their product has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. But if you bake or eat baked goods, those trace amounts can add to unhealthy amounts.

Cake Mixes and Frostings

Even if you find a cake or muffin mix labeled trans-fat-free, you could still see the telltale word "shortening" on many ingredient lists. That could mean trace amounts of trans fats, which can add up over multiple servings.

Also, consider how you're going to top your creation. Different frosting varieties have varying amounts of trans fat, even from the same brand. Be sure to check the nutrition labels, which also apply to brownie and cupcake mixes.

Pancakes and Waffles

Some pancake and waffle mixes may contain partially hydrogenated oils. Many popular brands don't have any but checking the nutrition label when grocery shopping for the next breakfast doesn't hurt. You may still spot some partially hydrogenated oil high on the ingredients list.

Fried Chicken

Manufacturers may hide trans fat in frozen fried chicken in many products, including frozen meals marketed to children.

Many restaurants may also use trans-fat-containing oils to fry chicken. Those oils are inexpensive options that help improve the dish's taste and texture. It's a good idea to check websites or ask what type of oil a restaurant fries their chicken in before you eat it.

Ice Cream

Specific ice cream flavors can contain up to half of one gram of trans fat per serving. But if you read the ingredients list, the telltale listing of partially hydrogenated oils will be missing.

There are naturally occurring trans fats in fat-containing dairy products. Several animal products from ruminant animals, such as cows and sheep, contain trans fat. You may also find those naturally occurring trans fats in meat products.

Even though they occur naturally, those trans fats affect your body similarly to the manufactured kind. According to the World Health Organization, it may help to limit those foods in your diet as much as possible.

Non-Dairy Creamers

If you're a coffee lover, non-dairy creamers may be a regular part of your morning. But over time, those creamers can also add trans fat to your diet.

The ingredients listed on some creamers may list zero grams of trans fat per serving. Yet, partially hydrogenated oils may be the second or third ingredient listed, meaning they're one of the top ingredients. Those oils can add up if you drink multiple servings of coffee daily.

Some manufacturers have removed partially hydrogenated oils and replaced them with hydrogenated oils that do not contain trans fat. Still, those oils increase the risk of heart disease. Per the American Heart Association, you should avoid those oils as much as possible.

Microwave Popcorn

Popcorn is a healthy snack that provides a serving of whole grains. But when you pour on the gooey toppings, there's no telling what you're adding. Many microwave popcorns may contain some amounts of trans fat. Instead, opt for organic brands of popcorn, like Boom Chicka Pop.

Ground Beef

Just as with dairy products, beef can also contain natural trans fat. Although some chains have removed partially hydrogenated oils from their fried foods, some burgers served at restaurants contain significant levels of trans fat. You'll also find trans fat in many frozen burgers, beef sausages, hot dogs, and ground beef.

Eating a lot of saturated-fat-containing animal products, like fried foods, ups your risk for several chronic diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should incorporate some plant-based meals throughout the week as much as possible.

Cookies and Cakes

Some cookie varieties may have less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, but some still contain partially hydrogenated oils. Also, beware of store-bought frozen desserts, some of which contain trans fats.

Biscuits and Sweet Rolls

Many fast food chains offer biscuits with zero grams of trans fat per serving. And many donut and cinnamon roll retailers have also phased out all trans fat. But others still offer treats with up to one gram each.

Be sure to check the grocery store types, too. Some frozen biscuits and sweet rolls may include some trans fat. Other varieties don't have trans fat on the label but list partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredients.

Breakfast Sandwiches

Some breakfast sandwiches served on biscuits at restaurants can have up to six grams of trans fat. And at the grocery store, some frozen sandwiches may include small amounts of trans fat per serving.

Frozen or Creamy Beverages

Because trans fat can naturally occur in dairy products, you may want to look closely at some famous chain dairy deserts. Although it may seem counterintuitive, they might have the most trans fat on the menu.

While many restaurants' shakes and creamy drinks have half of one gram or less, some can contain up to nine grams of trans fat. Mix-ins, like cookies or cookie dough, add additional trans fat.

Meat Sticks

You're packing more than just protein when you snap a processed meat snack. Some of those snacks may contain trans fat since it occurs naturally in beef.

Instead of processed meat sticks, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating plant-based snacks, such as fruit or raw vegetables. And it may help to get as much of your protein as possible from heart-healthy fish, poultry, lentils, soybeans, and nuts.


Some crackers may not list any trans fat on their nutrition labels. Still, some varieties contain partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil in their nutrition labels. Even that small amount will add up if you eat more than a few.

To be sure you're buying crackers that contain no trans fat, read the ingredients before even looking at the nutrition label. Choose snacks that avoid partially hydrogenated oils, such as Stacy's Pita Chips or Annie's Bunnies.

Frozen Dinners

Frozen foods are likely to contain trans fat not just to make the foods more stable but also to give them a fatty feel in your mouth. Not all frozen foods are problematic, though. For example, frozen fish and frozen vegetables can make wonderfully nutritious meals.

That said, prepackaged frozen and microwave meals can contain unhealthy trans fat. As with other foods, make sure you check the nutrition label.

Canned Chili

Several varieties of frozen beef chili contain about 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Turkey chili may be a better alternative to beef chili. Turkey chili often, but not always, has fewer calories and less saturated fat than beef chili.

A Quick Review

One of the best ways to avoid trans fats is to read the nutrition labels on what you pick up from the grocery store. Read the ingredient list to see if a product contains partially hydrogenated oils containing trans fats. 

And, if you're planning on eating out, check the restaurant website or ask what oil they use for frying food.

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