It may be tempting to trash your healthy eating habits during pregnancy. After all, you’re going to get big no matter what you eat, right? Not so fast. Experts say that making nutrition mistakes during pregnancy not only robs your baby of crucial nutrients, it also sabotages your own short- and long-term health. Make pregnancy an opportunity to improve your health, says registered physician assistant Amy Hendel, author of 2008’s Fat Families, Thin Families.
(This is not a medically approved approach to prenatal nutrition, it's just what I've been doing!)
I came down with a stomach bug last week. First I figured it was morning sickness revisited. Then I realized it was something much more persistent and all over. Next I began to think back over my recent dietary missteps.
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.
Like most people, we Americans adore what caffeine does—it gives us that jolt from a Coke, that mild kick from a Hershey’s bar, that boost from a coffee break. No wonder the average American adult consumes 200 milligrams of caffeine daily, almost 75 percent of it from coffee, and the rest from tea (15 percent), soft drinks (10 percent) and chocolate (2 percent), according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. Even pregnant women who deny themselves champagne or cigarettes hesitate to give up their beloved morning cup of coffee.
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?
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?
For more information on fish and mercury, check out the following websites:
• National Geographic's TheGreenGuide offers a comprehensive list of the best seafood choices—those that are not only low in mercury but are also not over-fished or farmed destructively—as well as those to avoid. Visit thegreenguide.com/doc/115/nofish.
• To calculate your weekly intake of mercury, visit gotmercury.org.
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.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should think carefully before taking St. John's wort. Commonly used to treat depression, the herb can interfere with some medications prescribed during pregnancy, including antidepressants and certain painkillers. Animal studies also link the herb to lower birth weight. Finally, studies show that breastfed infants can experience drowsiness or colic when their mothers take St. John's wort.