Palm oil, a tropical oil that quickly gained momentum in the food industry as a "healthier" replacement for trans fat-containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils or shortening, has been getting a bad rap lately — and for good reason. The use of conventional palm oil contributes to deforestation and wildlife reduction. And while some products do use sustainable palm oil that's 100 percent RSPO certified (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), the European Food Safety Authority also suggests that palm oil may be linked to cancer given that harmful substances may form when it's processed under high temperatures. Additionally, palm oil is rich in saturated fat, and it's important to follow the American Heart Association recommendations to limit overall saturated fats to less than 10 percent of total calories a day.
Scroll through to see which popular snacks and pantry staples contain palm oil, so you'll know to keep them out of your body and your kitchen.
1. Nutella Hazelnut Spread With Cocoa
Nutella, the incredibly popular spread that is velvety-smooth and chocolatey, has been around since the 1940s. Some may view it as nutritious because it contains hazelnuts, but all you need to do is look at the first two ingredients, sugar and palm oil, to see you need to be mindful about how much you're eating. On a positive note, the palm oil used in this spread is the sustainable kind that's 100 percent certified segregated RSPO. So when using Nutella, consider it a treat (not a regular snack) and smear lightly. Alternatively, you can buy Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread, which is GMO-free and contains no palm oil.
2. Snyder’s of Hanover Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks
Skipping greasy chips might seem like the smart thing to do when trying to curb snack calories, but substituting pretzel sticks may not be the smartest choice. One of those not-as-wise-as-you-thought choices includes Snyder's of Hanover Gluten Free Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Sticks. These pretzels are starchy, sugary and oily, and the nutrition label on the bag lists palm oil as the third ingredient. When the urge to snack overtakes you, consider passing on these pretzels and opt for a good-for-you munchie, such as homemade popcorn, instead. Or stick with bell pepper and carrot sticks dipped in a little hummus.
3. Martha White Blueberry Muffin Mix Made With Whole Grains
Muffins are typically better for you than doughnuts. Whole grains are typically better than processed grains. And blueberries are better than, well, no blueberries. So then what's the problem with this Martha White Blueberry Muffin Mix Made With Whole Grains? First, there's palm oil in the mix as well as more nutritionally unfriendly addivites, including the preservative butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). BHT is not technically considered a carcinogen; however, some studies link it to possible cancer in animals. If that isn't enough to scare you away, know that there's no actual fruit in this muffin mix. Those blueberries are not blueberries at all; They're artificial blueberry-like bits that include both artificial colors and artificial flavor. Instead of buying Martha White muffin mix, consider Simple Mills muffin mixes, made with organic flours and coconut sugar and absolutely no palm oil.
4. Betty Crocker Fruit By the Foot Flavor Mixers
Sure, you know there's going to be a lot of sugar in a fruity snack like this Fruit By the Foot. And you probably already know there's going to be artificial color due to its eye-popping, neon appearance. But one thing you may not know is that there's also palm oil in this sweet snack, which means you're not doing your body or the environment any favors by eating it. If you want something sweet and fruity, go for a KIND Mango-Apple-Chia Bar, which has no added sugar, or even better, bite into a juicy peach. If you want something by the foot, slide some cut up fruit onto a 12-inch skewer. In other words, when it comes to fruit, keep it real.
Read more: Is Fruit Leather Healthy?
5. Knorr Homestyle Concentrated Vegetable Stock
When you see the word "vegetable," you likely assume you're getting a healthy food. Not so fast! Make sure to flip over the package and read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel before buying products like this Knorr Homestyle Concentrated Vegetable Stock. This stock's base is made up of water, salt and palm oil. And the real offender, other than the palm oil, is the sodium content. One serving provides 750 milligrams of sodium. According to the American Heart Association, that's about a third of an entire day's worth of sodium (2,300 milligrams). Instead of this subpar stock, try making your own vegetable stock with celery, onion, mushroom and fennel.
6. Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink
Yoo-hoo Chocolate Drink is a beverage that's typically found in grade school lunch boxes, which means you should most definitely question its ingredients. Gulping down a 180-calorie bottle is not the same as enjoying homemade chocolate milk. In addition to whey (from milk) and nonfat dry milk, this drink includes high-fructose corn syrup, some artificial flavors, a host of other ingredients and palm oil.
If the 35 grams of total sugar weren't enough, there's also the artificial sweetener sucralose to create more intense sweetness. Some preliminary information suggests low-calorie sweeteners may predispose people to diabetes, especially if they are already overweight or obese. If you need a chocolate-milk fix, try some of the nondairy chocolate beverages that offer excellent nutrition, including plenty of protein, like chocolate flax milk.
7. Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP Dark Chocolaty Drizzled Sea Salt Kettle Corn
Popcorn, naturally gluten-free and considered a whole grain, is the "it" snack food of the moment. Though popcorn starts as a somewhat clean food, how it's popped and what's on top can lead it to lose its nutritional appeal. The mix of oils that coat BOOMCHICKAPOP Dark Chocolaty Drizzled Sea Salt Kettle Corn includes palm oil. And If that weren't enough to make you stay away, Angie's contains 10 grams of sugar and three grams of saturated fat in a serving (that's approximately 15 percent of the daily allowance of saturated fat). Needless to say, this sweet-salty snack isn't the smartest choice for your heart, especially if you mindlessly munch on more than a single serving. Your best bet? Pop your own non-GMO popcorn in grapeseed, avocado oil or ghee, and limit the add-ons to ingredients like herbs and spices.
Read more: 12 Ways to Make Popcorn More Exciting
8. Kellogg’s Special K Blueberry Pastry Crisps
There's a long list of processed ingredients in these Kellogg's Special K Blueberry Pastry Crisps. Palm oil and a mixture of other oils are included, as well as the synthetic preservative TBHQ, which may have a link to food allergies. Not to mention, this is a dessert — not a snack as advertised. While a single-serve pouch is just 100 calories, those calories are made up of much more than you've probably bargained for, including myriad sugars that add up to 14 percent of the daily value for sugar. If you desire a blueberry treat, pop some frozen blueberries into your mouth — they're mini desserts that are actually good for you!
Read more: 10 Desserts That Won't Derail Your Diet
9. Bento Express Spicy California Roll
Grocery stores have made it so much easier to grab on-the-go meals, especially seemingly healthy options like Bento Express Spicy California Rolls or any of those pre-packed sushi trays. While calorie-friendly and mainly plant-based, including wholesome ingredients like avocado and cucumber, there aren't many other positive attributes to this meal option. The roll is made with palm oil as well as white rice, which means you're missing out on good-for-you ingredients like fiber. You'll also find artificial preservatives here too. If you are craving sushi, order takeout from a real sushi restaurant where it's made fresh, without palm oil.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you worry about palm oil being in your favorite foods? Did any of these products on our list surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!