We try to be careful about our diet all the time (or at least most of the time), but when a woman is ‘eating for two,’ the stakes are higher. Pregnancy requires a special attention to nutrition as the developing fetus draws upon the mother’s nutritional stores.
“The best pregnancy diet is one that is well balanced, with at least two servings of protein daily, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and 60 ounces of water per day,” advises Dr. Angela Reining, an obstetrician/ gynecologist with Women’s Care Consultants and on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. “Consume dairy or another source of calcium; at least 1,000 milligrams per day is ideal. All pregnant women should be taking a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, as well as DHA.”
That advice, in a nutshell, provides the outlines of a proper pregnancy diet. However, there are a few caveats. For instance, washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly is important to help reduce the risk of disease-causing contamination.
“It is also very important for pregnant women to avoid eating certain foods like swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel due to high levels of a form of mercury. Each week, pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces of fish that are low in mercury, such as salmon, shrimp and catfish,” says Dr. Caren Schaecher, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Women’s Health Care Inc. at St. Luke’s Hospital. “Also, pregnant women should not eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry or shellfish; prepared (deli) meats unless heated until steaming; or unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses to prevent listeriosis, which is a bacterial infection that can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.” Raw eggs also appear on the list of prohibited foods.
Many women can forgo things like deli ham sandwiches for a while, but the morning cup of coffee may be non-negotiable for some. Take heart, a cup a day is generally allowed. “Although most studies show that caffeine intake in moderation is OK, there are others that show that caffeine intake may be related to miscarriages. As a general rule, caffeine should be limited to fewer than 200 milligrams per day during pregnancy,” Reining says.
A cup of brewed coffee generally contains between 95 and 200 milligrams of caffeine, according to the Mayo Clinic, although a 16-ounce Starbucks Pike Place brew nets more than 300 milligrams. “Some research shows that large amounts of caffeine are associated with miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight. The safest thing is to refrain from consuming caffeine,” Reining advises.
Although your daily latte may be OK, alcohol is out of the question. No amount of alcohol has been found to be safe during pregnancy, and Reining also advises women to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while breastfeeding.
Another concern for many pregnant women is weight gain. “Depending on your body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement of body fat based on your height and weight, the amount of weight gain recommended during pregnancy varies,” Schaecher says. “If you have a normal BMI, you should gain 25 to 35 pounds. This means you need only about 300 extra calories each day. Avoid the empty calories of sweets, fast food and high-calorie beverages.”
A healthy mom greatly increases the likelihood of a healthy baby. Remember, whatever you eat, your baby eats, so choose wisely and enjoy a healthy pregnancy.