Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nutrition Corner: What Can I Eat?

Pregnancy is an exciting time but also fraught with nutritional dangers around every corner! Or so many well-meaning friends and family members would have you think. It's difficult to determine what's valid information versus unfounded beliefs. So I thought I would put together a little post about the nutritional good, bad, and ugly during pregnancy.

Have you ever heard the phrase "You're eating for two?" Well, yeah, but the second person is initially the size of a walnut - not a full sized grown-up! It only takes about 300 extra calories a day to maintain a pregnancy. In fact, it takes more calories to maintain breastfeeding (about 500 calories) than pregnancy! We don't even expect women in their first trimester to gain much...maybe 5 pounds at most. At this time during the pregnancy, the baby is growing organs and body parts but not so much in size. During the second and third trimester we expect to see slow and steady weight gain, as this is when the baby is really growing in length and weight. Weight gain during pregnancy is based on your weight and height prior to pregnancy - your provider will discuss this with you and monitor throughout the pregnancy.

So what's good to eat????
  • Colorful food is typically a safe bet - this usually means fresh fruits and veggies. Veggies are great for snacks as raw food and also wonderful when cooked - just don't overcook as many veggies lose some of their nutritional value. Be careful to wash fruits and veggies very thoroughly as many are treated with pesticides (which aren't so yummy). If organic foods are a possibility (can be more expensive), this is a great way to avoid pesticides and other chemicals. Removing the skins of veggies and fruits is another way to avoid exposure.
  • Lean meats - protein is critical for your health as well as the development of the baby. Plan to eat lean meats, avoiding red meat as much as possible. Lean meats include pork and chicken. The occasional steak isn't the end of the world :p
  • Other sources of protein include fish (more on this later), nuts, peanut butter, beans (black beans cooked with some salsa or pico de gallo are yummy!).
  • The use of herbs and seasonings can create variety amongst meals.

Not So Good?

  • Let's chat about fish...the March of Dimes website has a wealth of information about nutrition including fish safety. We want you to eat fish because of the health benefits (heart health, mood stability, development of baby's eyes and brain is boosted) however with some caveats. The big concern about fish is the accumulation of mercury, which is toxic in humans. Fish that live long lives (typically big fish) such as sharks, albacore tuna, swordfish, tile fish, etc should be avoided. Regular tuna, such as the canned variety is fine to eat. Fish consumption should be limited to 2-3 times a week, one serving each time. Absolutely no raw fish! Cooked or vegetable sushi is fine.
  • No undercooked meat, poultry, or seafood. Skip the steak tartare while pregnant!
  • Luncheon meats such as hotdogs, turkey, ham, etc should either be avoided or cooked until steaming hot.
  • No lightly cooked eggs...and don't eat raw eggs....ewww gross, who would do that? Just be sure the eggs are thoroughly cooked.
  • Avoid unpasteurized products such as cheese made from unpasteurized milk, unpasteurized milk and any foods made from it, juices.
  • Avoid raw sprouts.
  • Avoid deli foods as they can be contaminated with listeria, even if cooked.

And that pretty much sums of the do's and don'ts of eating when pregnant. Don't freak out if you ate something naughty prior to realizing you shouldn't have - very likely no harm will come of it.

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