A healthy diet during pregnancy is essential to your baby’s growth and development. Your body metabolizes the foods you eat and passes along beneficial vitamins and minerals to him. But due to changes in the way your body synthesizes food and circulates nutrients during pregnancy, you and your baby are more susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals in foods and food-borne illness.
Foods to Avoid
Although the vitamins found in seafood promote healthy brain development, mercury levels in some types of fish can damage a baby’s fragile nervous system. While you are pregnant, avoid eating swordfish, shark, albacore or steak tuna, tilefish and king mackerel. Also, do not eat raw or undercooked fish, oysters or shellfish. If you crave seafood, opt for 6 oz. a week of canned light tuna, shrimp, pollock, cod or catfish. Pasteurization is the process by which food is heated to a certain temperature to kill microorganisms that can cause illness or spoilage. Though they may taste good, unpasteurized cheeses such as Brie, feta, blue cheese and Camembert are unsafe during pregnancy. Likewise, so are unpasteurized milk and juices. In the vegetable aisle, bypass raw sprouts. Abstain from alcohol during pregnancy and limit your intake of caffeine, sugar and fat.
Dr. Siobhan Dolan, OB-GYN and consultant for the March of Dimes, says pregnant women need an average of 300 extra calories a day. Furthermore, she suggests making those calories count. In considering foods to avoid while pregnant, there are still many safe foods you can add to your cart. One important nutrient you need while pregnant is protein, which helps your baby to grow. Eat this in the form of lean chicken, eggs, tofu and beans. Low-fat red meat gives you the iron you need. Low-fat milk and yogurt provides your body with essential calcium. Folate, the nutrient responsible for proper spine formation, is found in many green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), maintaining a vegetarian diet during pregnancy is okay as long as you work with your physician to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. She might prescribe supplemental iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D for you. If you are lactose intolerant and cannot drink milk, choose high-calcium foods, like salmon, spinach, or calcium-fortified juice and cereal.
Always cook fish and meat according to the correct temperature and check for doneness before you eat them. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly to minimize exposure to bacteria. When preparing food, wash your hands before and after handling. Don’t forget to wash food preparation surfaces and utensils, too, to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
Listeriosis is an infection caused by the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria sometimes found in raw or undercooked meats, or unwashed fruits and vegetables. The bacteria are especially dangerous to pregnant women and can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Symptoms include fever, chills and muscle aches. To minimize your risk of contracting Listeriosis, always follow safe food handling and preparation guidelines. As described by the American Pregnancy Association (APA), cravings for non-food items, such as dirt or chalk, is called pica. Though the condition affects fewer than 25 percent of all pregnant women, it can be a sign of a nutritional deficiency. Because the consumption of non-food items can harm both you and your baby, it’s important to tell your physician of any cravings you might have.