05/07/2013 08:17 am ET Updated Jul 07, 2013

Mom Knows Best

Klein Family

I couldn't have been much more than 7 or 8 years old the first time I remember being recruited for a nutrition label recon mission. I wasn't on the lookout for calories or grams of sugar or fat -- this was no mom putting her 7-year-old on a diet. I may not have understood exactly why at the time, but I was scouting for the words "partially hydrogenated."

I'd spot something I just had to have in whatever grocery store aisle and stop in my tracks, preparing to plead my case. Whining wouldn't get me anywhere.

"Read the ingredients" became a kind of a mantra eventually, the unspoken rule of grocery shopping with mom. If you wanted to add something to the cart, you had to report back about what was in it. Exactly what something "partially hydrogenated" was doing to my body wasn't the important part to me at the time. It was enough to know it was bad news -- and that we weren't bringing that bad news home.

Save for the odd bowl of sugary cereal at an aunt's house or some after-school chips when visiting a friend, I didn't even really know what I was missing. Carrots, celery and raisins only fell out of favor when it suddenly seemed like everything I wanted in the grocery store was off-limits.

Years later, as I grew into my own passion for health, I realized that as annoying as it was at the time to be denied box after box of tantalizing treats, my mom was way ahead of her time.

Today, we all know that trans fats are merely a tactic of Big Food to keep processed eats "fresh" longer. Trans fats are particularly bad for our hearts. Years ago, "only true diet detectives knew whether a particular food contained trans fat," writes Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrion Source. "Only people who knew that the code phrases 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oil' and 'vegetable shortening' meant that trans fat lurked in the food were aware of its presence." My mother was -- and is -- one of those true diet detectives.

With a masters degree in nutrition -- and, if I may brag for a moment, a published paper in a peer-reviewed journal! -- Mom wasn't just being a concerned parent. She was putting her scientific studies to good use. Although ultimately deciding to stay at home with me and then my younger brother too, she had committed to practicing what she had learned, and, in the process, teaching by example.

Of course, there are countless other lessons my mother has taught me (among them, but not limited to: how to read, that plucking my eyebrows was going to be more hassle than it's worth, to always be open about my feelings). As trivial as it might seem in the grand scheme of life lessons, given everything we now know, avoiding trans fats turned out to be a good one. As is so often the case, Mom was right all along. And really, I'm all the better for it.

When it comes to health, what was your mom right about? Tweet us with #momknowsbest, email or leave a comment below. We'd love to see pictures! And on or around Mother's Day this year, we'll pull together some of your stories for the ultimate celebration of health-minded moms.