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What to Eat While Pregnant: Pregnancy Food Rules Demystified



Pregnancy is such an exciting and interesting time for women, but there is nothing exhilarating about sifting through fact and fiction when it comes to food rules.


Even as a dietitian this is a topic that really got to me during my pregnancy. There are seemingly so many food rules associated with being pregnant and its almost as if you are made to feel like you should be preparing for some sort of incoming storm!


I know that lots of pregnant women have encountered a number of list of foods to avoid from a combination of family, friends, doctors and the good ol’ internet.


My goal with today’s article is to provide some clarity in this area so you know exactly what to be wary of over your next 40 weeks.


These foods are largely related to help you avoid getting food sickness and limiting your babies exposure to environmental toxins. I encourage you to speak with your doctor or work with a dietitian like myself for further clarification and support.



Here we go:


1. Environmental Toxins


High Mercury Fish – Seafood is an easy source of protein and Omega 3’s which are important for your baby’s brain development. It is a good idea to have 1-2 servings of fish per week during your pregnancy. However, fish that is high in mercury such as the ones listed below can be harmful to your baby’s growing nervous system.

o Shark

o Swordfish

o King Mackerel

o Tuna (especially albacore)


Try and consider eating these fish instead:

o Anchovies

o Catfish

o Cod

o Herring

o Light canned tuna

o Pacific oysters

o Pollock

o Salmon

o Sardines

o Shad

o Shrimp

o Tilapia

o Trout


Part 2- Foodborne Illness


Undercooked or Raw Fish, Meat, Eggs or Processed Meat – Unfortunately pregnancy is not the time to be eating undercooked fish, meat or eggs. It is also a time when you have to be cautious of eating processed meat such as deli meat or hot dogs.


To prevent foodborne illness:

o Fully cook all meats and poultry before eating.

o Cook hot dogs and luncheon meats until they're steaming hot — or avoid them completely. They can be sources of a rare but potentially serious foodborne illness known as a listeria infection.

o Avoid refrigerated pates and meat spreads. Canned and shelf-stable versions, however, are OK.

o Cook eggs until the egg yolks and whites are firm. Raw eggs can be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Avoid foods made with raw or partially cooked eggs, such as eggnog, raw batter, and freshly made or homemade hollandaise sauce, and Caesar salad dressing.


Good News! Commercially manufactured ice cream, dressings, and eggnog are usually made with pasteurized eggs and do NOT increase the risk of salmonella.


Restaurants should be using pasteurized eggs in any recipe that is made with raw eggs, such as Hollandaise sauce or dressings


Unwashed Produce -- All raw fruits and vegetables should be washed to avoid harmful bacteria. Avoid raw sprouts of any kind — including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean — which also might contain disease-causing bacteria. Be sure to cook sprouts thoroughly.


Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese and Fruit Juice – In North America our dairy items are pasteurized before they can be sold to the general public. Pasteurization is a process that helps to kill harmful bacteria. If you are eating imported cheese or travelling abroad, you should make sure dairy items such as milk or soft cheese are pasteurized before you consume them.


Unfortunately, juice such as fresh squeezed juices or raw juices you get from a juice bar are also off limits as they are not pasteurized before sale.


Part 3 – Beverages ( Caffeine, Alcohol)


Caffeine – Depending on the organization, caffeine recommendations for pregnant women range from 200-300 mg daily which is around 2-3 cups of homemade coffee or 1-2 cups from the coffee shop.


Alcohol -- No level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy. The safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely.

If you're concerned about alcohol you drank before you knew you were pregnant or you think you need help to stop drinking, consult your health care provider.


Final Thoughts

So you have just read through the enormously daunting pregnancy restrictions. It is a lot to take in and can feel very limiting for a person who also is battling food aversions and the overall feeling of not being “well”.


Each pregnancy is unique in how it affects a woman’s body. Find foods that you can eat while finding some level of peace with the fact that food aversions happen and are totally normal. On top of everything you have to make sure what you are eating is safe and healthy for both you and the baby.


Here are a few final tips to consider:


1. Look for alternatives -- Make sure you take note of what you can eat and listen to what your body is telling you. For example, if you are having a hard time eating meat you should start to plan and look at incorporating more vegan meals into your rotation. Lots of beans, lentils, chickpeas etc. are high in fibre and protein. Check out my post here on how to incorporate more plant based food into your pregnancy diet.


2. Prep easy freezer meals and snacks that you can store for when the baby arrives. Such as

no-bake energy bites, which are easy to eat when you are looking for an energy boost.


3. Adding ginger and acupuncture into your regimen has been shown to be beneficial in the management of symptoms relating to nausea and vomiting.


And finally remember, I’m here to help!


References

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant. (2020, May 13). Retrieved June 03, 2020, from https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/foods-to-avoid-during-pregnancy/PDF. (2015). Ottawa: Health Canada.


Do you know which foods to avoid when you're pregnant? (2019, December 31). Retrieved June 03, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20043844


Health Canada Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines. (2019, September 05). Retrieved June 03, 2020, from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canada-food-guide/resources/prenatal-nutrition.html


Campbell, K., Rowe, H., Azzam, H., & Lane, C. A. (2016). The Management of Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 38(12), 1127-1137. doi:10.1016/j.jogc.2016.08.009


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