Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

McDonald’s fries go trans fat free

For many, the wait is over.  McDonald’s French fries are finally trans fat free.  As you may know, McDonald’s has been working for years to try to get rid of the trans fats in their foods – most especially in their French fries which remain one of their top sellers.


The change comes from a switch to a zero-trans-fat cooking oil.  Worries over a potential change in taste has been the main factor McDonald’s has cited as the reason for not having removed trans fats before now.


While not everything on the McDonald’s menu is trans free at this time, apparently the hash browns, chicken, filet of fish and biscuits now have zero grams of trans fat per serving.  It has been cited that other baked products like pies and cookies will go trans-free by the end of the year.


McDonald’s is not planning to advertise these changes.  Perhaps this is because many customers did not know the restaurant chain still offered items with trans fats – especially since there has been a plan in place for the conversion for almost 6 years and many other restaurants are already trans-fat free.


The good thing is that trans fats are on the way out.  The bad thing is that many customers will confuse this message with the idea that now the fried foods are healthy.  This is certainly not be the case.  These products are still high in fat and can still contribute to poor nutritional habits and poor health, if eaten frequently. 


If you are going to eat at McDonald’s, best bet is to avoid the fried foods and pastries and instead select grilled chicken, a salad or lowfat ice cream cone.  Of course, most customers who frequent McDonald’s do not choose these items over the fried ones.  McDonald’s has done a great job of listing nutritional information on their food packaging.  Take a minute to read the information and know what you are eating. 


It is all about balance, variety and moderation.  Understanding what moderation means to you is important.  If you have heart disease or high cholesterol, I’d recommend avoiding fried foods all the time if you can.  If fast foods are a binge food for you, again, I’d recommend steering away from the drive-through and opting for another restaurant.  If you are healthy and maintain a healthy weight, then having fried foods every once in a while are not such a bad thing (maybe 1-2 times a month at most).  And, if you go to fast food restaurants every week, aim to incorporate the healthier items on the menu and lessen the number of times you splurge on unhealthy ones.


If you are uncertain about your food habits and whether you are making the right choices, contact a dietitian in your area.


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