Everything you eat and drink while you’re expecting influences your baby’s health. Good choices are whole grains, lean meats, lots of fresh fruits and veges, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. As for the rest… well some foods are questionable, some are OK in moderation, and some are all-out no-no’s.
Here’s some “food for thought:” consider these guidelines before indulging in every pregnancy craving:
Raw or Undercooked Animal Products
These foods may contain an array of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. When cooking meat, chicken, and fish, it’s recommended to test the doneness with a food thermometer, cook eggs until they are no longer runny, and don’t eat raw dough. Here are some other things to watch out for:
- rare meat
- raw oysters
- unpasteurized eggs
- raw cookie or cake dough
- homemade eggnog
Hot Dogs, Cold Cuts, & Unpasteurized Dairy Foods
These foods are prone to Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis, which may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health problems. These include food such as:
- hot dogs and
- luncheon meats (deli ham or turkey, bologna, salami, etc)
- refrigerated pates or meat spreads
- refrigerated smoked seafood (such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel)– may be labeled “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.”
- raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and queso Panela.
It’s safe to eat smoked seafood, lunch meants, and franks, when it’s part of a cooked dish (like in a casserole) or if you reheat them until they are steaming hot. Always wash your hands, utensils, and cooking surfaces after handling raw meats, deli meats, etc.
Certain Seafood and Fish
Some large fish harbor high concentrations of mercury, a byproduct of coal-burning plants that interferes with the normal development of a child’s brain and nervous system.
- Fish to avoid: swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel
- Fish to eat in moderation (up to 12 ounces weekly, according to the FDA): salmon (farmed and wild), shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sardines, tilapia, and catfish.
- albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. Limit to 6 ounces a week.
- Fish caught for sport in rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams may also contain industrial pollutants that play havoc with a developing nervous system. Check the safety with your local health departments.
Raw Vegetable Sprouts
The FDA advises pregnant women not to eat raw sprouts — including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts. Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can get into sprout seeds, posing a danger for a weaker immune system. Cooked sprouts are perfectly fine.
Drinks to Limit or Avoid
- Alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) robs developing cells of oxygen and nutrients, preventing normal fetal development. The effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on intellectual abilities and physical growth are permanent. While some assume the motto “Everything in moderation,” there is no known “safe level” of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
- Unpasteurized juices, such as cider from neighborhood farms. These products may contain germs including E. coli.
- Lead in tap water is linked to low birth weight, preterm delivery, and developmental delays in children. If you have an older home with lead pipes, it can leach into your tap water, and home filtration systems may not prevent it from reaching you.
- Caffeine from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy beverages, and other sources may increase the risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight, and stillbirth, but the research is conflicting. The March of Dimes recommends limiting caffeine consumption to 200 milligrams a day. That’s about the amount found in 12 ounces of coffee.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is an industrial chemical used to make many hard plastics and the liners of many canned foods. It’s an endocrine disruptor that could disturb normal fetal development.
The FDA has not yet recommended that pregnant women avoid BPA, but they did express concern about “the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children.”
If you wish to be safe, a wide range of BPA-free plastics and glass containers are available.
Herbal Teas, Vitamins, & Supplements
There are herbs and other supplements that can be used safely to support a healthy pregnancy, but always talk to your doctor or midwife about any supplement use during pregnancy. Herbal teas are caffeine-free, but there are definite studies on the safety of herbal preparations during pregnancy.
Duffy MacKay, ND, is the vice president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, suggests the following guidelines during pregnancy:
- Herbs that contain stimulants or caffeine-containing supplements, especially those that are intended to promote weight loss: guarana, kola nut, betel (Piper betle), Citrum aurantium, yohimbe, theobromine (cocoa extract), Garcinai cambogia.
- Other botanicals to avoid include golden seal, Cascara sagrada, black walnut, wormwood, tansy, pennyroyal, senna, saw palmetto, pao d’arco.
- Do not exceed 10,000 or more IU per day of vitamin A because of the risk of birth defects. MacKay adds that “many newer and specialty nutrients have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy and should be avoided.”
Foods That May Cause Food Allergy
Your baby is more lifely to develop food allergies if you, your child’s father, or one of your other children has allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that avoiding certain food allergens (such as peanuts) during pregnancy and nursing may reduce allergy in susceptible children.
If you don’t have any family history of allergies, there is little, if any, benefit to avoiding allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Before changing your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about food allergies.
Eating for two does not mean that you need twice the calories! Gaining too much weight is not just bad for your health, it may actually increase the risk of your future child being overweight.
It is important to chose healthy foods that will provide good nutrition for you and your developing baby. If you are overweight at conception or if your physical activity level declines, you may not need as many extra calories.
- First trimester: no need to add extra calories yet.
- Second trimester: add 340 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.
- Third trimester: add 450 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.
It’s usually not that important to count calories, as long as you are eating a balanced diet and feel energized. If you are unsure about how many calories to consume, ask your doctor or dietitian.
Source: Web MD
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