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I don't want to gain too much weight during pregnancy

Is it okay to stick to a low-fat diet?

Although almost everything you read about a healthy diet emphasizes cutting down on fat, pregnancy is no time to be on a low-fat diet. Your baby needs certain fats to develop properly. In particular, fat helps your baby form healthy, supple skin and aids in vision development.

Which dietary fats are best?

Before you go whole hog on the donuts, keep in mind that some fats are better for your health than others. There are four types of fats found in food: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and hydrogenated. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive, canola, and peanut oils, as well as in nuts and nut butters, are considered "good" fats because they're best at lowering cholesterol.

Polyunsaturated fats are beneficial, too. They include the omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish and omega-6 fatty acids found in canola and corn oils, among others. Studies have shown that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular may lower a woman's risk for depression, aid a fetus's vision development, and even regulate a newborn's sleep patterns.

Saturated and hydrogenated fats (also known as trans-fats) fall into the "bad" camp. Saturated fats are found in high-fat meats (such as liver), whole milk, and tropical oils (such as palm oil). Although it won't have a bad effect on your baby, a diet high in saturated fat can raise your cholesterol and may put you at risk for cancer. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats are found in margarine, and in most grocery-store variety crackers, cookies, and chips because they help extend the shelf life of these products.

How much fat should I get?

The key to fat consumption during pregnancy is balance. Keep in mind that no more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat. And don't beat yourself up if you indulge in a bag of chips or a plate of fried chicken on occasion — you can make up for it the next day.

Aim for around four servings of fat a day (from the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated groups, if possible), using the list below as a guide to the healthiest choices. Other foods such as lean meats and dairy products will provide the remainder of the fat you need in your diet during pregnancy.

Monounsaturated Fats: Best Choice

• 1/8 avocado
• 1 tsp. canola, olive, or peanut oil
• 8 large almonds or cashews
• 10 peanuts
• 4 pecan halves
• 2 tsp. peanut butter
• 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
• 2 tsp. tahini

Polyunsaturated Fats: Next Best Choice

• 1 tsp. margarine
• 1 tsp. regular mayonnaise
• 1 Tbsp. reduced-fat mayonnaise
• 4 walnut halves
• 1 tsp. corn, safflower, or soybean oil
• 1 Tbsp. salad dressing
• 2 Tbsp. reduced-fat salad dressing
• 1 Tbsp. sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Saturated Fats: Worst Choice Though the portions below equal one serving of fat, they are the ones to avoid:

• 1 slice bacon
• 1 tsp. bacon grease
• 1 tsp. butter
• 2 Tbsp. chitterlings
• 2 Tbsp. coconut
• 2 Tbsp. cream or half-and-half
• 1 Tbsp. cream cheese
• 2 Tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese
• 2 Tbsp. shortening or lard
• 2 Tbsp. sour cream
• 3 Tbsp. reduced-fat sour cream

FYI Keep a sharp eye out for hidden fats when you're eating in a restaurant. Tip-off words and phrases: pan-fried, crispy, creamed, fried, au gratin, hollandaise, escalloped, and buttery.

Choose or ask for grilled, baked, or steamed fish, meats and vegetables instead.

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