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Nutrition & Exercise

Healthy Fats During Pregnancy?

I heard I should be eating healthy fats during pregnancy. What does that mean exactly?  

It seems like everyone stresses about what to eat once they find out they’re pregnant, but the dietary recommendations aren’t so different for pregnant women than they are for everyone else — you should be eating a variety of nutritious foods including healthy fats, which your body needs to stay healthy, and baby needs for brain development.

Fats to avoid

When it comes to fats, Deborah Goldman, MD, ob/gyn at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, tells her pregnant patients and easy guideline: “Move away from the processed food fats, because those are not healthy fats.” Those non-healthy fats include hydrogenated fats (also called trans fats, which include palm and coconut oils) and saturated fats (butter, cheese).

Fats to choose

Better fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in nuts, avocados, plant-based oils (including sunflower, corn, soybean and olive oil) and some types of fish (salmon, herring, tuna and trout).  

The deal with seafood

You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the healthy development and functioning of the brain, nervous system, heart, eyes and immune system. Because omega 3s are most often found in seafood — and because most American diets don’t typically include a lot of seafood — most moms-to-be in the US are low in omega-3s. So bump up your intake by eating about 12 ounces of seafood per week. But here’s the catch: Certain types of seafood are high in mercury, a known neurotoxin. Steer clear of top-predator fish, such as swordfish, which are known to be high in mercury, and eat instead more canned tuna, salmon and shrimp.

If you don’t like fish, that’s okay, too. “The reality is that prenatal vitamins now almost always come with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, and a lot of foods, such as eggs, are fortified with omega3,” says Goldman.

How much fat

You’ve probably become a label reader — check the fat and calories ratio on your favorite foods. Keep your fat intake to less than 30 percent of your total calories, but don’t obsess if you go over that limit now and then. (In other words, that 100-calorie snack pack should have 30 fat calories or fewer.) A high-fat treat here and there — like a bowl of Rocky Road — is completely okay and not worth stressing about.

Plus, More from The Bump:

10 Pregnancy Foods to Eat for Baby

Eating Carbs During Pregnancy?

Healthy Low-Calorie Pregnancy Snacks

By Debra Goldman, MD and ob-gyn at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island