Healthy and unhealthy food during pregnancy
When you get pregnant, you receive a lot of information regarding the food during pregnancy. From your relatives and friends about what you are supposed to eat and what not to. But this information is not always true or reliable. It is also very easy for you to make the mistake of searching for information by browsing the internet with low reliability. Especially, when certain questions arise and anxiety increases, which can make things worse.
Although each woman and each pregnancy are different, there are some foods capable of generating benefits while covering the nutritional requirements. On the other hand, there are other foods that can harm the fetus. Consequently, it is always advisable to avoid them.
How much should I eat? Which are my nutritional requirements if I am pregnant?
As we explained in other of our articles, it is very important for you to properly feed yourself while being pregnant to meet both your nutritional requirements and those of your baby and to ensure his/her proper growth and development. However, it does not mean that you must “eat for two” as many people say. Instead, it means having good eating habits. In fact, many experts say that you must only increase about 300 calories per day over the calories you usually eat.
Nausea and vomiting might make it difficult for you to eat properly, especially in the initial months of pregnancy. So, your doctor will recommend a well-balanced diet and some prenatal vitamins to fulfill all the basic requirements. Contact your doctor immediately if vomiting does not give up.
Which food and supplements should I eat during pregnancy?
A well-balanced diet includes daily servings of slices of bread and grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products (properly pasteurized), and protein sources like meat, poultry, fish, eggs (well cooked), or nuts. Fats, salty food, and sweets are not forbidden during pregnancy but must be consumed in moderation to avoid developing some diseases like pregnancy Diabetes and/or Hypertension.
It is also recommendable to eat foods that are enriched and high in fiber, like cereals, whole-grain bread, beans, pasta, rice, and oat to prevent constipation. Fruits and vegetables also have a high fiber content. However, if you still develop moderate to severe constipation, your doctor may recommend taking fiber supplements like psyllium and methylcellulose to help soften your stool.
Dairy products provide calcium, which is necessary to build the baby’s bones and teeth. Lean meats, spinach, beans, and cereals provide iron, which is needed to prevent you from developing anemia and to produce more blood to supply the baby with oxygen.
Fish (like cod and tuna) and shrimp, dairy products (especially yogurt and cottage cheese), iodized salt, and eggs provide iodine. Fish also provides omega-3 fatty acids. Dark green leafy vegetables, veal, and legumes provide folate. Iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate are essential for the baby’s central nervous system development. They help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Citric fruits (like oranges, grapefruits, lemon, strawberries, and passion fruit), papaya, tomatoes, honeydew, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, green peppers, and mustard provide vitamin C. Carrots, sweet potatoes, water squash, pumpkins, turnip greens, beet greens, spinach, apricots, and cantaloupe provide vitamin A. Vitamin C and A are necessary to boost your immune system and reduce your risk of suffering from iron-deficiency anemia.
However, the doctor will recommend prenatal vitamin supplements. This is to fulfill the number of vitamins and minerals you get from the diet. These prenatal supplements usually have calcium, iron, iodine, vitamin C, folic acid (man-made supplements of folate), vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, among others. Drinking plenty of water and other healthy liquids is also important for you to maintain proper hydration and avoid constipation.
Is it true that I can develop cravings and aversions during pregnancy?
Although this may sound like a myth, it is true that your tastes can change when you are pregnant. In fact, around 50% of pregnant women develop some food cravings and/or aversions. Cravings in pregnancy can range from an increase in the desire to eat your favorite treats, like ice cream or chocolate, to combinations of flavors that you would not normally eat, like blackberry ice cream with mustard and pickles as a topping.
Oddly enough, there is a very common craving that women develop during pregnancy called pica. It consists of the desire of eating dirt, clay, sand, or other substances. These substances can be harmful to both you and your baby. Consequently, it is very important that you inform your doctor about it as it could be due to iron deficiency. On the other hand, some foods and smells that you normally like might cause you nausea during pregnancy. For example, only the smell of coffee or vanilla may trigger the desire to vomit.
What food must I reduce and avoid during pregnancy?
There is some food that you can eat in limited quantities and others that you must completely avoid. For example, caffeine is safe during pregnancy. But you must only consume a 12-ounce cup of coffee (200 mg of caffeine) a day.
Likewise, it is recommendable to limit the amount of albacore or “white” tuna (no more than 6 ounces a week). It has high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to the baby’s brain development. Other types of fishes like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, orange roughy, marlin, and tilefish must be avoided because they have even higher levels of mercury.
Alcohol must also be avoided. The reason is, it can pass directly from the mother’s blood to the baby’s blood through the umbilical cord. In fact, heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy can cause different conditions called “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders”. Those disorders include physical problems and learning and behavioral difficulties in babies and children.
Finally, you must avoid unpasteurized food, raw meat, raw and undercooked eggs, raw and undercooked shellfish, and store-bought deli salads to reduce the chances of suffering food poisoning like listeriosis, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, or E. coli infection.