Food Facts | Fit Pregnancy

Food Facts

You asked, we answered. Here are responses to our readers'’ questions about pregnancy nutrition.

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(Q) I’ve heard that I should stay away from soft cheese. Which ones fit that description, and are they safe to eat if cooked, such as on a pizza or in a cheese sauce?
(A) Pregnant women should avoid soft cheeses because they can contain listeria. Brie, Camembert, Mexican-style cheeses (such as queso blanco), goat cheese and feta made with either cow’s or sheep’s milk all fall into the soft-cheese category. 

Even pasteurized soft cheeses are risky, says Erin Coffield, R.D., a registered dietitian with the New England Dairy and Food Council, because they tend to have a low pH level, which puts the cheese at risk for contamination. You should also avoid blue-veined cheeses such as Gorgonzola.If you do decide to eat soft cheese, be sure to heat it until it’s bubbling hot.

(Q) I can’t start the day without my morning cup of java. What’s the lowdown on caffeine?
(A) Although there is little evidence that moderate amounts of caffeine will harm your growing baby, research has shown that it can increase the baby’s heartbeat, particularly in the last trimester, Somer says. Also, consuming more than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day (the amount in two 5-ounce brewed cups) increases the risk of miscarriage, fetal growth problems and low birth weight. To be safe, switch to decaffeinated coffees, teas and colas, and drink smaller amounts, during your pregnancy.

(Q) Before I became pregnant, I enjoyed an occasional glass of beer or wine or a martini. Now that I’m expecting, will drinking alcohol really hurt my baby?
(A) Yes. Drinking alcohol has been linked to fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition characterized by mental retardation, physical defects and behavioral problems, according to the March of Dimes. Instead, try fruit nectar mixed with seltzer or nonalcoholic sparkling cider. (Nonalcoholic beer contains trace amounts of alcohol and should be avoided.)

(Q) I hate milk, but I know I need calcium. What are some other sources to get the 1,000 milligrams I need daily?
(A) “Try calcium-fortified orange juice or soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamin D,” says Johanna Dwyer, D.Sc., R.D., a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. Other good sources of calcium include bok choy, white beans, canned salmon with bones, hard cheeses, yogurt and fortified oatmeal, such as Quaker Instant Oatmeal Nutrition for Women.

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