Weight gain; what to avoid
In active, athletic women, excess weight gain is rarely a problem. Guidelines for weight gain are about 3 to 5 pounds in the first trimester, then 1 pound per week thereafter after the first 3 months of pregnancy for a total of 25 to 35 pounds weight gain overall. Weight gains are adjusted slightly based on starting weight parameters: Underweight women can gain 30 to 40 pounds, normal weight women can gain 25 to 35 pounds, and overweight women can gain 15 to 25. Do not be concerned about this weight gain: It is necessary for your baby. It might sound like a lot because the baby weighs between 6 to 10 pounds, but the additional weight is essential for the health of your baby. This includes increased blood volume, amniotic fluid, the placenta (a bed of nutrition for the baby), and enlarged breasts. This weight is usually lost within the first few months after pregnancy, especially as you continue to exercise.
During pregnancy, you should eat three meals a day with a few snacks to keep your blood sugars stable and accommodate for the limited room your stomach has to expand as your baby grows. Eating smaller, more frequent meals also helps manage nausea during the first trimester. You should not diet or limit carbohydrates or fats or be on any type of restrictive diet, unless recommended by your doctor. You need the calories and fat in a well-balanced diet to feed your growing baby.
The exception to nutritional foods that should not be eaten in pregnancy includes foods that can become easily colonized with listeria. This is a bacteria that can lead to gastrointestinal, intrauterine, and cervical infections either with or without fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also cause meningitis. In pregnant women, it is particularly dangerous, as listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Foods at risk of contamination with listeria include soft cheeses (brie, feta, Mexican cheese), unpasteurized dairy products, poorly stored deli meats that have not been heated to steaming, raw poultry, raw fish, raw meats, and smoked fish. Although fish is beneficial to the baby's developing nervous system, fish with a high content of mercury should be avoided. These include swordfish, large tuna steaks (albacore and most canned tuna is fine twice a week), tilefish, shark, and mackerel. Oysters and raw shellfish should be avoided due to other risks of diseases, including hepatitis A.
Foods That Should Be Avoided in Pregnancy
- Soft cheeses—brie, camembert, feta, Mexican cheese, blue, or gorgonzola
- Hot dogs, deli meats, meat spreads that have not been heated to steaming
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- Raw meat and poultry
- Raw and smoked fish and shellfish
- Swordfish, tuna steaks, mackerel, shark, and tilefish
Also, try to avoid processed and artificial foods. These include saccharin and monosodium glutamate (MSG), the latter of which can raise blood pressure and cause diarrhea and allergic reactions in some people. MSG is found in many packaged products, including chips, cheesy crackers, gravies, soups, Chinese food, meat tenderizer, and some spice mixes. Other artificial sweeteners, such as Nutrasweet and Splenda may be used in moderation in pregnancy, as there has been no specific research proving their harm. Caffeine is not recommended at more than the equivalent of two six-ounce cups of coffee a day (or four eight-ounce servings of caffeinated soda or six-ounce cups of tea), as higher amounts might contribute to miscarriages. To be as safe as possible, eat natural foods and try to avoid chemical ingredients, other than vitamins and minerals, altogether.
Proper nutrition can sometimes be a challenge. During the first trimester, when morning sickness or general nausea peaks due to the rapid hormone changes of pregnancy, it might be hard to eat a well-balanced diet. During this time, try to get enough calories and fluids and take your prenatal vitamin. If the prenatal vitamin is making you feel sick or constipated, ask your doctor for a different brand. Until then, take calcium tablets and a multivitamin along with an extra 400 mg folate. Vitamin-fortified cereals, food bars, or drinks can also provide extra nutrients (read the labels). You might have to stop exercising for a while if you are unable to eat enough calories. After the first trimester, this should improve and you should be able to tolerate more foods along with your prenatal vitamin.
If you have severe problems with morning sickness, or nausea and vomiting during the day and night there are many things you can do to try to ease and even prevent it. These include smelling or tasting a lemon, ginger, or lavender; snacking on crackers or cookies; eating a small meal every two hours; and sipping very cold lightly sweetened or carbonated beverages.
Because nausea and vomiting can often last all day and even at night, be prepared with scents, foods, and drinks that work for you. If you are vomiting, try to take in as much fluid as you can. Sports drinks are recommended throughout the day to replenish lost electrolytes.
Pregnancy nutrition: Foods to avoid during pregnancy
More foods can affect your health or your baby's than you might realize. Find out what foods to avoid during pregnancy.
You want what's best for your baby. That's why you add sliced fruit to your fortified breakfast cereal, top your salads with chickpeas and snack on soy nuts. But do you know what foods to avoid during pregnancy?
Start with the basics in pregnancy nutrition. Understanding what foods to avoid during pregnancy can help you make the healthiest choices for you and your baby.
Avoid seafood high in mercury
Seafood can be a great source of protein, and the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can promote your baby's brain development. However, some fish and shellfish contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. Too much mercury could damage your baby's developing nervous system.
The bigger and older the fish, the more mercury it's likely to contain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourage pregnant women to avoid:
- King mackerel
So what's safe? Some types of seafood contain little mercury. Although concerns have been raised about the level of mercury in any type of canned tuna, the FDA and EPA say pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) a week. Similarly, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week for pregnant women. That's about two average meals of:
- Canned light tuna (limit albacore tuna, chunk white tuna and tuna steak to no more than 6 ounces, or 170 grams, a week)
Not all researchers agree with these limits, however, citing a study that noted no negative effects for women who ate more seafood than the FDA-approved guidelines.
Avoid raw, undercooked or contaminated seafood
To avoid harmful bacteria or viruses in seafood:
- Avoid raw fish and shellfish. It's especially important to avoid oysters and clams.
- Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood, such as lox. It's OK to eat smoked seafood if it's an ingredient in a casserole or other cooked dish. Canned and shelf-stable versions also are safe.
- Understand local fish advisories. If you eat fish from local waters, pay attention to local fish advisories — especially if water pollution is a concern. If advice isn't available, limit the amount of fish from local waters you eat to 6 ounces (170 grams) a week and don't eat other fish that week.
- Cook seafood properly. Cook most fish to an internal temperature of 145 F (63 C). The fish is done when it separates into flakes and appears opaque throughout. Cook shrimp, lobster and scallops until they're milky white. Cook clams, mussels and oysters until their shells open. Discard any that don't open.
Avoid undercooked meat, poultry and eggs
During pregnancy, you're at increased risk of bacterial food poisoning. Your reaction might be more severe than if you weren't pregnant. Rarely, food poisoning affects the baby, too.
To prevent foodborne illness:
- Fully cook all meats and poultry before eating. Use a meat thermometer to make sure.
- Cook hot dogs and processed deli meats, such as bologna, until they're steaming hot — or avoid them completely. They can be sources of a rare but potentially serious foodborne illness known as listeriosis.
- Avoid refrigerated pates and meat spreads. Canned and shelf-stable versions, however, are OK.
- Don't buy raw poultry that's been pre-stuffed. Raw juice that mixes with the stuffing can cause bacterial growth. Frozen poultry that's been pre-stuffed is safe when cooked from its frozen state.
- Cook eggs until the egg yolks and whites are firm. Raw eggs can be contaminated with the harmful bacteria salmonella. Avoid foods made with raw or partially cooked eggs, such as eggnog, raw batter, hollandaise sauce and Caesar salad dressing.
Avoid unpasteurized foods
Many low-fat dairy products — such as skim milk, mozzarella cheese and cottage cheese — can be a healthy part of your diet. Anything containing unpasteurized milk, however, is a no-no. These products could lead to foodborne illness.
Unless these soft cheeses are clearly labeled as being pasteurized or made with pasteurized milk, don't eat:
- Blue cheese
- Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco and panela
When selecting eggs, consider buying the pasteurized variety. In addition, avoid drinking unpasteurized juice.