Tilting at Windmill (Cookies): Trans Fat Math

Diane and I like certain snacks. But maybe those snacks don’t like us. Take, for example, Voortman Windmill Cookies. They taste excellent. Now, the FDA allows manufacturers to use a “Zero grams Trans Fats” label on packaging if the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 grams. But that leaves considerable ambiguity as to the healthiness of this snack.

The American Heart Association recommends that one restrict trans fact consumption to 1% or less of one’s total daily caloric intake. That translates to around 2 grams. The page helpfully notes that various foods naturally contain some trans fats, thus additional trans fat exposure in manufactured foods will likely lead to excess trans fat consumption.

The Windmill cookie package does have a prominent label on the front of the package saying, “Zero grams Trans Fat! Non-Hydrogenated! Per Serving”. What this tells me is that for FDA compliance, each serving has less than 0.5 grams of trans fats. Now let’s look at the nutrition label. There I find that Voortman defines a serving of Windmill cookies as two cookies. I think I have eaten as few as two cookies at a sitting, but I don’t think I’ve done that often. Voortman says that there are about thirteen servings in the package. Now, it is possible that Windmill cookies have no trans fat at all. That isn’t excluded by the labelling. However, if that were the case, they could make that stronger claim on the packaging. The use instead of the weaker “per serving” claim is an indicator that some trans fat is likely still in the recipe. In the worst case, how much would that be? Given the data on the label and assuming it is accurate, that would be just under 6.5 grams trans fat per package of cookies. Even if you were to allocate your entire daily trans fat experience to Windmill cookies, you’d want to restrict yourself to less than a third of a package per day.

In the trans fat nutrition game, zero is not really zero. Small numbers add up, especially when delicious cookies are the vector.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

4 thoughts on “Tilting at Windmill (Cookies): Trans Fat Math

  • 2009/02/03 at 10:14 am
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    As Jimmy Buffett says:

    I want to die while I am living, not live while I am dead…

  • 2009/02/03 at 12:20 pm
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    The important part is non-hydrogenated. Always read the ingredients, rather than the advertising. Butter has trans fat, still it is better than margarine. Of course, try to keep the saturated fat down as well, so try to make the package of cookies last more than a day.

  • 2009/02/05 at 6:34 am
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    Why not bake some cookies? It’s fun, and you could probably make a big batch and freeze some of the dough for later. (And you’ll save some dough too)

  • 2009/02/06 at 6:03 am
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    Danish manufacturers, or as it is, Danish branches of manufacturers, have traditionally used only a diagram showing the amount of fat, protein and carbs, pr 100gr. Showing also the energi distribution in the product.

    Now however many have changed tack, and use a measure called something like, recommended daily intake, and this is calculated pr serving.

    So the label will now say that one serving of potato chips has 10% of your daily recommended intake of fat.

    This is some clever disguise, because you have to look hard to see that one serving of chips is perhaps 15 gr, and the bag contains 300 gr.

    This makes it almost impossible fr consumers to know what the facts are.

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