(Q) Last night I ate ahi tuna for dinner. Now I’m wondering: Could the possible high level of mercury hurt my growing baby?
(A) That amount of ahi was unlikely to contain enough mercury to cause any health problems, Somer says. However, to be safe, the FDA says that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid certain fish that are likely to contain high levels of mercury, which can affect the baby’s developing brain and nervous system.
Fish that the FDA has flagged as containing unhealthy amounts of mercury include shark, king mackerel, swordfish and tilefish (sometimes called golden snapper or golden bass). Safe choices include shellfish, cod, flounder and canned tuna, but limit them to 12 ounces a week.
(Q) I love pâté and smoked salmon, but my friend told me I should avoid them now that I’m pregnant. Is she right?
(A) Pâté and foie gras made from undercooked goose or duck liver should not be eaten when you are pregnant because these foods could contain listeria, Ayoob says.
The FDA also warns pregnant women against eating refrigerated smoked seafood, such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna and mackerel (often labeled as nova style, lox, kippered, smoked or jerky) because they are cured, not cooked. However, canned versions of these foods are considered safe, as is vegetable pâté.
(Q) I’m excited about being pregnant, but I’ve got morning sickness all day, every day and greasy foods make me feel worse. Is there anything I can eat to alleviate the nausea?
(A) “Morning sickness is a universal problem without a universal answer,” says Miriam Erick, M.S., R.D., senior perinatal dietitian at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and author of Managing Morning Sickness (Bull Publishing, 2004). “One food does not fit all.” What alleviates one woman’s nausea may not help you. That said, ginger and citrus fruits help many women, as do dry, salty foods, such as crackers and pretzels. Starchy foods, such as rice and potatoes, may also help; you can boost their nutrient content by folding in vegetables and chicken.
(Q) Now that I’m pregnant, I can’t wait to dig into all those goodies I’ve been depriving myself of for years, such as doughnuts, ice cream and French fries. I need the calories, right?
(A) Occasional treats are fine as long as you enjoy them in moderation and as part of a healthy diet. The reality is, now that you’re pregnant, you need only 300 additional calories a day—and only in the last two trimesters. (During your first trimester, you need 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day, the same amount recommended for nonpregnant women.) So instead of blowing those calories on greasy, sugary snack foods, many of which contain additives, try reaching for a healthy, homemade treat.
(Q) I’ve read that pregnant women aren’t supposed to eat soy. Is this true?
(A) Controversy has arisen recently because a small study showed that when pregnant female rats were fed a diet enhanced with genistein, a substance found in soybeans, the male offspring developed reproductive problems. Although further research is under way, many health experts, including Somer and Dwyer, feel you can enjoy soy foods such as tofu and soy milk in moderation (one serving per day) when you are expecting.