The foundation of eating well during pregnancy is to commit to a whole food-based diet.
This means cutting down or eliminating as many processed foods as possible and concentrating on foods that are grown or raised naturally, without unnecessary added ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or preservatives.
Be aware of any allergies or sensitivities you have before engaging in any kind of new eating strategy. But for the general population, fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, “clean” meats, yogurt, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts, purified water and seeds should be the mainstay of a pregnancy diet. These foods provide the highest nutritional value.
Below are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about food intake during pregnancy. Women should be sure to talk to their doctors about their take on these issues and what's right for their pregnancies.
Is caffeine okay? According to medical studies, a limited intake appears to be safe. I suggest no more than 200 mg per day. The risk: drinking too much caffeine might increase the risk of miscarriage or induce early labor. To put things in perspective: an 8 oz. cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine; an Espresso has 65 mg; a Diet Coke has about 45 mg; and a cup of regular tea has about 50 mg.
What about wine? This is a tough one. In some European countries, pregnant women will often have a little vino with dinner. However, the Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states that there is no safe amount of alcohol to drink, especially considering the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. Some obstetricians say an occasional half glass of wine poses little risk after your first trimester but to never overdo it.
Can I eat fish? In the United States, women are routinely told to not eat fish or sushi when pregnant. But, there is a little bit of wiggle room, considering Japanese women certainly do not seem to restrict it during their pregnancies. Granted, there are justifiable concerns about eating mercury in some fish such as tuna, mackerel, swordfish and blue marlin (in general, the larger the fish, the more mercury it contains). There is also a concern for bacteria and parasites in sushi that are actually incorrect. Most fish used for sushi in the United States, per U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, have been flash frozen when caught. This kills the bacteria and parasites present in them.
Other foods that should be limited during pregnancy include refined sugars, non-organic dairy and meats and artificial sweeteners. Foods that should be avoided all together during pregnancy include non-pasteurized dairy products, soft cheese, undercooked or processed meats and poultry, undercooked eggs and some herbal teas such as chamomile, lemongrass and anise.
Important food precautions should be taken during pregnancy to avoid Listeria infections. Listeria is rare but something to be avoided while pregnant. It is caused by a bacteria found in foods that can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. You can kill the bacteria with cooking and pasteurization and here are some good precautions you can follow:
- Thoroughly cook meat.
- Avoid raw, unpasteurized milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk.
- Do not eat soft cheeses unless they have labels that clearly state they are made from pasteurized milk.
- Wash raw vegetables thoroughly.
- Wash hands, knives and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
- Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. If in doubt, microwave them until steaming hot.
- Do not eat hot dogs, luncheon meats or deli meats, unless they have been microwaved until steaming hot.
- Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads unless heated as above.
Dr. Jan Rydfors is a Board Certified OB/GYN specializing in fertility and high-risk pregnancy and Co-Creator of the popular app, Pregnancy Companion MD (www.pregnancycompanionapp.com). The only app created and staffed by Board Certified OB/GYNs, Pregnancy Companion is recommended by over 5,000 doctors across the country.
NOTE: The statements presented in this blog should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Dietary supplements do not treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before adding a dietary supplement to (or removing one from) your daily regimen. WholeFoods Magazine does not endorse any specific brand or product.