Cutting Trans Fats
The ISAAC study found that 13- to 14-year-olds who ate the most trans fats were most likely to have symptoms of asthma. In a Finnish study evaluating the diets of 231 children ages 3 to 18 for six years, the kids who developed atopic diseases such as eczema and asthma were compared to children who remained healthy. The asthmatic children, it turns out, ate more margarine (high in trans fat and omega-6s) and less butter (low in omega-6s and free of trans fat) than healthy kids.
Breath-Saving Strategy: Don't pile on the butter -- too much saturated fat contributes to heart disease. Rather, avoid trans fats. Major sources are fast food (french fries and chicken nuggets), baked goods, and fried or oily snacks like chips, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group. Here's how to cut back.
Slow down fast food. Go less often and try healthier kids' meal options -- Boston Market offers a child-size serving of turkey, ham, or chicken with a small side dish (like veggies or rice) while Subway's Kids' Pak offers a small deli sandwich (seven kinds are low-fat), a small drink (you'll probably be able to get bottled water, milk, or juice, depending on the location), and a cookie. When you're at Wendy's, McDonald's, or Burger King, hamburgers are a better choice than chicken nuggets. Opt for milk or water instead of soda.
Shop for better baked goods. Look for items that don't contain partially hydrogenated oil (for the trans fats) or margarine and vegetable oil (for omega-6s). Great cookies with canola oil: Barbara's Bakery Old-Fashioned Oatmeal, Country Choice Organic Sandwich Cookies, and Mi-Del Vanilla or Lemon Snaps.
Snag healthier snacks. Microwave popcorn is often loaded with trans fat, and many brands of potato chips pack trans fat or lots of omega-6s. If you do buy chips and popcorn, try Terra or Michael Season's chips (made with canola oil) or Bearitos No Oil Added Microwave Popcorn.