When you’re pregnant, your body and your baby need healthy dietary fat. A regular balanced diet should provide sufficient healthy fat. However, out of the approximately 65 grams of fat that you need per day, no more than a third should be the unhealthy saturated and trans fats. Our new Canadian labelling laws will require all packaged foods to show these fats, but won’t be mandatory until 2006. Still, there are clues that can help you figure out what kind of fat a product contains:
• You don’t always need to read the label. Plant oils, like olive or canola oil that are liquid at room temperature, are low in saturated fats and therefore a good choice for cooking, baking and salads. Most adult breakfast cereals are also fairly low in saturated fat. Donuts, pies, ice cream, french fries and potato chips are always high in artery-clogging saturated fat. A pastry-covered or batter-encased food that is low in saturated fat? No such thing.
• “Non-hydrogenated” means it’s not trans fat. In processed foods, plant fat is commonly “partially hydrogenated” to keep it from going stale or to make it solid. A by-product of hydrogenation is trans fat, known to be a risk for heart disease. Most margarines are partially hydrogenated, but their labels do not yet list trans fat content. Choose a margarine that is labelled non-hydrogenated.
• Saturated fat content isn’t always clearly indicated on labels. Look for “low fat” claims. Store-bought cookies and crackers are an example of this. Not all will show saturated fat content; but for those that do, the “grams per serving” varies hugely, making it difficult to compare. The fat in cookies and crackers is partially hydrogenated, so will contain various amounts of hidden trans fat. The simplest solution? Choose products with a claim of “low in fat,” “fat free” or “low in saturated and trans fats,” or those labelled to contain less than one gram of saturated fat per serving.