Pregnancy and Your Diet
Pregnancy is a very important time to be sure you are getting the best nutrition possible in order to help your baby grow and develop normally. What does diet during pregnancy mean? When we refer to diet during pregnancy, we are not speaking about restricting calories or trying to lose weight. Dieting to lose weight during pregnancy can be hazardous to you and your baby, especially since a weight loss regimen may restrict important nutrients such as iron, folic acid, and other important vitamins and minerals.
Therefore, we recommend avoiding popular diets such as Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Raw Food Diet, and so on. The type of diet we encourage during pregnancy refers to fine-tuning your eating habits to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrition for the health of you and your baby. Healthy eating during pregnancy is critical to your baby’s growth and development. In order to get the nutrients you need, you must eat from a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein sources and dairy products.
It is always important to eat a variety of foods throughout the day making certain you get the nutrients both you and your baby need. Here is a look at the food groups and some suggested sources for creating a healthy diet during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Diet: Nutrients You Need
Eating a healthy, balanced diet while you’re pregnant protects you and your growing baby. Although you should take a prenatal vitamin as insurance, choosing the right foods will help give you the complex mix of nutrients that pregnant women need. Aim for meals high in these important nutrients:
Baby Benefits: Builds bones and teeth. (Your growing baby takes the calcium she needs from your body, so to keep your bones and teeth healthy, you need to get enough to replace that amount.)
Your Benefits: Protects your bone density. It may also help prevent high blood pressure while you’re pregnant.
Pregnancy RDA: 1,000 milligrams (mg); don’t exceed 2,500 mg
Best Food Sources:
Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain many important nutrients for pregnancy especially, Vitamin C and Folic Acid. Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C daily, which is contained in fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and honeydew, and vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, and brussel sprouts.
In order to prevent neural tube defects, 0.4 mg of folic acid per day is recommended. A good source of folic acid can be found in dark green leafy vegetables (other sources of folic acid include legumes, such as black or lima beans, black-eyed peas, and veal). You should have at least 2-4 servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of vegetables daily.
Breads and Grains: The body’s main source of energy for pregnancy comes from the essential carbohydrates found in breads and grains. Whole grain and enriched products provide important nutrients such as iron, B Vitamins, fiber and some protein, even. You can get the required amount of folic acid from fortified bread and cereal.
Depending on your weight and dietary needs, you should consume anywhere between 6-11 servings (6-11 oz) of breads/grains daily.
Protein: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and beans contain the protein, B vitamins and iron needed in pregnancy. Your developing baby needs plenty of protein, especially in the second and third trimesters. Iron helps to carry oxygen to your growing baby, and also carries oxygen to your muscles to help avoid symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, irritability and depression.
The U.S. RDA recommends about 27 mg per day. Lean beef, chicken, lamb, liver, turkey and veal are good options. Fish, and some seafood, can be a good nutritional choice for pregnancy, within guidelines. Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided. (Read more about Fish and Mercury Levels). You should consume at least 3 servings of protein daily.
Dairy Products: At least 1000 mg of calcium is needed daily to support a pregnancy. Calcium is essential for building strong teeth and bones, normal blood clotting, and muscle and nerve function. Since your developing baby requires a considerable amount of calcium, your body will take calcium from your bones, if you do not consume enough through your diet (which can lead to future problems, such as osteoporosis).
Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, cream soups and puddings. Some calcium is also found in green vegetables, seafood, beans and dried peas. You should consume at least 4 servings of dairy products daily.
A balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy is important to maintain your health and nourish your fetus. Be sure to increase your daily caloric intake by 300 calories after you become pregnant.
The average woman needs 2,200 calories a day and 2,500 when she is pregnant. If she is carrying twins, her need increases to 3,500 calories, and for triplets or more, she needs 4,500 calories. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about your daily calorie needs because your needs depend on your height, weight, and activity level.
Your doctor may give you a nutrition plan to follow throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding. You may also receive a prescription for a vitamin and mineral supplement or a list of recommended nonprescription supplements.
Baby Benefits: Helps prevent problems in the spinal cord and brain, called neural tube defects, and enhances brain development.
What Not To Eat When Your Pregnant
Pass Up Soft Cheeses
Enjoy some grated Parmesan on your pasta — but pass up the cheese dip. Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk can harbor listeria bacteria, which can be dangerous or even life-threatening for you and your baby. It’s best to avoid brie, Camembert, feta, blue cheese, queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela — unless the label says it’s pasteurized. When in doubt or dining out, ask before you eat.
Skip Undercooked Meat
Now is the time to order all steaks and burgers fully cooked. Raw or undercooked meat can harbor toxoplasma and other bacteria. When dining out, make sure your meat is steaming hot and thoroughly cooked. At home, the temperature should reach at least 145 F for whole cuts, 160 F for ground meats like hamburger, and 165 F for chicken breasts.
Beware Fresh Juice
Fresh-squeezed juice in restaurants, juice bars, or farm stands may not be pasteurized to protect against harmful bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. Some markets also sell raw, unpasteurized juice in the refrigerated case — look for the required warning label, and steer clear. Pregnant women should opt for juice that is pasteurized. Juice in boxes and bottles on your supermarket shelf is also safe.
Sorry, sushi fans, but it’s time for a 9-month hiatus from this treat. Although seafood is a great source of protein, raw seafood can be a source of harmful parasites and bacteria. The FDA recommends pregnant women only eat fish and other seafood that has been cooked thoroughly.
Raw Cookie Dough
When you’re baking cookies, you may be tempted to pop a bit of raw dough in your mouth. But if the dough contains raw eggs, even a taste could pose a risk. The CDC estimates one in 20,000 eggs is tainted with salmonella bacteria. To be safe, resist tasting unbaked cookie dough, batter, or filling made with raw eggs. The good news: Store-bought cookie dough ice cream is safe.
Homemade Caesar Dressing
Raw eggs are also used in many homemade dressings and sauces, such as:Caesar salad dressing
Opt for store-bought versions, which are made with pasteurized eggs.
Many homemade desserts, including mousse, meringue, and tiramisu, also contain raw eggs. If a store-bought version won’t do, there is a safe way to prepare your favorite recipe. Some supermarkets sell pasteurized eggs, which are OK to eat raw. Make sure the label on the eggs specifically states “pasteurized.”
Fresh Pre-Stuffed Poultry
A pre-stuffed turkey or chicken offers a great short-cut when you’re pressed for time. But the juice from fresh, raw poultry can mix with the stuffing and create a great place for bacteria to grow. Cooking usually offers protection, but pregnancy makes it harder to fight off infections. A safe alternative is buying frozen pre-stuffed poultry. Be sure to cook it directly from frozen — don’t let it defrost first. The thigh meat should hit 180 F.
Fish With Mercury
Fish is good for you and your baby, but make smart choices about the fish you eat. Swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark contain high levels of methylmercury. This metal can be harmful to your baby. You can safely eat up to 12 ounces of seafood a week, so choose fish that are low in mercury: catfish, salmon, cod, and canned light tuna. If you like albacore (white) tuna, limit yourself to 6 ounces per week. Check with your doctor before taking fish oil or any other supplements while pregnant.
Unlike many other food-borne germs, listeria can grow at the temperatures inside your fridge. For this reason, you should avoid perishable, ready-to-eat meats, such as cold cuts and hot dogs, when you’re pregnant. You can make these foods safe by heating them until they are steaming hot and eating them right away.
Pâtés or Meat Spreads
Pâtés contain perishable meats, so they may harbor listeria as well. Keeping your fridge at or below 40 F will slow the growth of this bacteria but won’t stop it completely. Because pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to listeria, it’s safest to avoid all refrigerated meat spreads. Spam lovers are in luck. Canned meat spreads are OK — if not exactly healthy — during pregnancy.
Now is the time to load up on fruits and veggies! Just be sure to rinse them thoroughly under running water. A parasite called toxoplasma can live on unwashed fruits and veggies. It causes an illness called toxoplasmosis, which can be very dangerous to your baby. Don’t use soap to wash produce. Instead, scrub the surface with a small vegetable brush. Cut away any bruised areas, because these may harbor bacteria. To avoid the listeria bacteria, scrub and dry cantaloupe before slicing it.
Don’t eat any raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, and radish. Bacteria can get into the seeds before the sprouts begin to grow, and these germs are nearly impossible to wash away. At the deli, check sandwiches to make sure they don’t contain raw sprouts. At home, cook sprouts thoroughly to destroy any bacteria.
When you’re expecting, it’s best to skip the lox on your morning bagel. Like ready-to-eat meats, refrigerated smoked seafood is vulnerable to listeria. This includes smoked salmon (often labeled nova or lox), as well as smoked trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, and mackerel. It’s safe to use smoked seafood in a cooked meal, such as a casserole.
Raw shellfish is one of the top causes of illness from seafood. The culprits include parasites and bacteria that are generally not found in cooked seafood. So skip the oysters on the half shell. As long as you cook shellfish thoroughly, it’s safe to eat during pregnancy. Cook oysters, clams, and mussels until the shells open. If any don’t open, throw them away.
Fish From Local Waters
Unless you know your local streams, bays, and lakes are unpolluted, avoid eating fish you catch yourself. Some lakes and rivers are contaminated with industrial chemicals. Locally caught bluefish, striped bass, salmon, pike, trout, and walleye may be affected. Check with your state’s fish and wildlife department for more information.
You may not want to insult your friends by avoiding their potluck offerings. But there’s reason for concern if the food is left unrefrigerated for too long. Follow the 2-hour rule: Don’t eat potluck dishes that have been sitting at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. When temperatures are above 90 F, the cutoff should be 1 hour.
Have you ever dreamed of visiting a farm and tasting milk fresh from a cow? Wait a while. Freshly collected milk has not yet been through the pasteurization process that protects it from listeria. That can be dangerous for you and your baby. Buy milk, cheese, or dairy products from a local farm only if the label says “pasteurized.”
The Caffeine Question
Good evidence now shows that a moderate amount of caffeine is safe during pregnancy. But the jury is still out on whether higher amounts of caffeine can increase the odds of a miscarriage. The March of Dimes recommends women who are pregnant or trying should limit caffeine to 200 milligrams per day. That’s one 12-ounce cup of coffee. But remember, caffeine is also found in soda, tea, chocolate, and many energy drinks.
You already know that heavy drinking during pregnancy can lead to serious birth defects. What you may not know is that even small amounts of alcohol could be harmful. No amount of drinking has been found to be safe during pregnancy, so it’s best to avoid all forms of alcohol. This includes wine, beer, coolers, and traditional eggnog, which contains alcohol and raw eggs.
Unless you’re headed straight home from the restaurant, don’t ask for a doggie bag. The inside of your car can get warm quickly, allowing bacteria to multiply. If you do take home leftovers, put them in the fridge within 2 hours of when the meal was originally served.
So there you are pregnancy and your diet… Some us may cheat a little with certain things but you get the overall jist of it. There are just somethings we can not eat.
Just a little heads up from some parents who care, I hope you enjoyed….