Whether or not you are currently pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant or know someone who is, eating properly during pregnancy is so important for the overall health of both the pregnant, soon to be, mother and her future bundle of joy!
Fish, to eat or not to eat?
Mercury, specifically methylmercury, is harmful to an unborn child’s nervous system but this does not mean that all fish should be avoided. It has been studied and now discovered that the health benefits of eating fish regularly outweigh the danger from mercury and other contaminants. Fish is rich in protein and several vitamins and minerals, including some loaded with omega 3’s, helping with the healthy vision and brain development of the fetus. You should and can minimize consuming fish with methylmercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. If you avoid those fish, you can consume up to 6 oz of white albacore tuna per week and an average of 12 oz of a variety of cooked fish per week. It is actually okay to consume more than 12 oz in one week, as long as it isn’t every week. It is known that raw fish should be avoided, just to avoid the chanced of getting a food borne illness. Cooked fish, on the other hand, in moderation are fine and actually good for both the mother and baby.
It is true that caffeine can cross the placenta and affect the baby’s heart rate and breathing so caffeine should be limited. Believe it or not, limiting caffeine to 300mg/day or 2-3 cups a day can actually be just fine. Caffeine from other sources such as teas, sodas, chocolate, etc. are all included in this maximum daily amount. It isn’t recommended to have caffeine everyday but a coffee here and there isn’t going to harm you or the baby. It is suggested to aim for decaf or 1/2 decaf to get the flavor you want yet without the full stimulant effect.
Pregnant woman have a hormone-induced decrease regulation of immune functioning during pregnancy and are more susceptible to getting infected with listeriosis, which is caused by bacteria, or toxoplasmosis. It can carry over to the baby and can be a cause of stillbirth, premature births or even miscarriage. Listeria can be found in variety of raw foods, meats, dairy product (especially if unpasteurized), and processed foods that have been contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and cold cuts. Toxoplasma is typically associated with handling cat litter or through handling undercooked meat. An unborn child infected with toxoplasmosis could develop serious problems later in life. It is suggested that the following suggestions are taken to heart, in order to avoid the risk for developing listeriosis or toxoplasmosis:
-Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources. This is not the time for rare cuts of meat! Be sure internal temperatures reach 160 degrees.
-Freeze meat several days before cooking.
-Wash and or peal raw veggies and fruits thoroughly before eating.
-Keep undercooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready to eat foods.
-Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk.
-Wash hands, knives and cutting boards with hot soapy water after handling uncooked foods.
-Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after exposure to soil, sand, raw meat or unwashed veggies.
-Wear gloves while gardening or handling sand.
-Avoid drinking untreated water.
-Consume perishable and ready to eat foods as soon as possible.
-Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats unless they are reheated until steaming hot.
-Wash hands after handling deli meat, luncheon meats or hot dogs!
-Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta or Brie.
-Do not eat meat spreads or pates. Canned pates or meat spreads are okay but must be canned.
-Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood such as “lox” i.e salmon, tuna, etc. Canned smoked seafood is okay but not refrigerated.
The FDA has found low or no calorie sweeteners to be safe during pregnancy and while breast-feeding, although just a moderate amount is recommended! If a pregnant woman has high levels of phenylalanine, an amino acid found in protein rich food AND also found in aspartame, a pregnant woman shouldn’t intake aspartame as their source of sweetener. Believe it or not, Stevia, which is thought to be the safer and most natural of sweeteners, is not approved by the FDA as a safe sugar substitute while pregnant because of its lack of evidence that it is safe.
Women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes are at risk for developing gestational diabetes but there are several factors that increase risk…
-impaired glucose intolerance
-Ethnicity (African-Americans, American Indians and Hispanics) are at a greater risk
It is important to be of course, not smoke and to stay active while pregnancy to avoid the risk of Gestational Diabetes.
It goes without saying that this is a time where weight gain is inevitable. It really depends on each individual’s current weight. It is suggested that a woman should get pregnant while no more than 15 pounds away from her ideal weight. In general, yes you are eating for two but there is no reason to eat more than 100-300 calories over your non pregnant meal plan. The average weight women should gain is approximately 25-35 pounds. Underweight woman can gain 30-40 but as always, it depends on your body and where you started.
Food and Nutrients you need
In general, you should eat 6-11 servings of grains, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, 4-6 servings of dairy and 3-4 servings of meat. A multi vitamin is highly suggested and one that contains 400 mcgs of folic acid, especially before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy. Low folic acid increases risks of birth defects of the brain and spine. The multi vitamin should also include 100% daily value for iron.
Looks like based on the healthy balanced lifestyle habits we are creating are making this transition an easy process! Here is to a healthy and happy pregnancy, for those of you pregnant or those that may be considering it in the future!