The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Every year, scientists uncover information about the critical role nutrients play in the mental and physical development of the fetus, including their ability to reduce the risk of birth defects and disease in newborns. Prenatal vitamins can help, but they can’t do the job alone, which is why your diet is so important.
Before you were pregnant, you probably didn’t think twice about enjoying a tuna-fish sandwich, a salad sprinkled with blue cheese or a glass of red wine. After all, tuna is brimming with protein, blue cheese contains bone-building calcium, and red wine in moderation can benefit your heart. But now that you’re expecting, these foods could pose a health risk to you and your growing baby, which is why it’s important to know exactly which foods and beverages you should avoid. These important food facts will help you make safe choices.
Almost every pregnant woman can look back to her early weeks of pregnancy and recall some type of risky behavior. For some it’s the headache tablet, the dental X-ray or the hair dye that makes them wince. In my case, it was the wine tasting that I attended on the night that I conceived. As it turns out, these slip-ups probably are fine, according to medical experts, although pregnant women do need to be alert to behaviors that could put their babies at risk.
now, more than ever, taking care of yourself is top priority. With your baby developing inside you, you know you should get the most out of what you’re eating. You also know that you need extra calories for your baby’s development. But there may be something you haven’t thought about: Avoiding foods that make you sick or that harm your growing baby is also an important part of the equation.
If you’re like many women — especially if this is your first pregnancy — you’ve become quite careful about what you eat. Artificial sweeteners are out, coffee is cut to just one cup a day, and only organic produce will do. Yet you may be surprised to learn that there are even better ways to ensure that you and your unborn baby avoid food-related illnesses and problems.
Congratulations! You’re pregnant. Now what? Do you get to eat everything in sight? Can certain foods harm your baby? We designed a quiz (with help from nutritionist Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.) to test your prenatal-nutrition knowledge and help you find out what you and your baby need to stay healthy during the entire 40 weeks.
1) Your body will require additional calories to build that baby. But how many—and when?
Most of us are creatures of habit, piling the same foods into our grocery carts each week. But pregnancy, with its increased nutritional requirements and wacky cravings and aversions, may require venturing into new nutritional territory.
It's a conundrum: You know seafood is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Rich in protein and other essential nutrients, swimming with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats, these watery wonders have likely been a part of your weekly—if not daily—diet for years. But now that you're pregnant, you're being pummeled with news that fish may not be so healthy after all. What gives?
Where folate flourishes
Start your shopping trip in the fresh-produce department, where finding nutrient-dense foods is a no-brainer. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of folate, a B vitamin that helps manufacture and maintain new cells and is especially vital for the rapid cell division that takes place during pregnancy. Deficiencies can contribute to serious birth defects of the spine and brain (aka neural tube defects such as spina bifida).
Part of putting your Supermarket Smarts to work is to make informed choices when eating fish and seafood during pregnancy. Although you should limit or avoid eating certain types of fish during pregnancy, there are still plenty of healthful options in the seafood department. There you can find lean sources of protein and healthful omega-3 fatty acids.