It's no secret that eating right is important, whether you're pregnant or not. "Establishing good lifestyle habits is important for many reasons," says licensed physical therapist, athletic trainer and professional yoga therapist Ginger Garner of Emerald Isle, North Carolina. "But perhaps the most important reason is that a mother will pass her good (or bad) health onto her unborn child. The decisions a mother makes today about her health and well-being will affect her child for a lifetime." Give your unborn baby the best possible start by eliminating the no-no's from your diet.
It's well-known that fish is an excellent source of lean protein, but certain types of fish have the potential to do more harm than good. Some fish, including tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish and shark, contain particularly high levels of mercury. Other potentially dangerous fish include albacore tuna and fish caught locally. Because mercury is not safe during pregnancy, you should look for fish that contain low amounts of mercury. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends pregnant women consume no more than 12 ounces of any type of fish containing low amounts of mercury in a week's time. Low-mercury fish include canned light tuna, shrimp and salmon. Jaime Schehr, naturopathic doctor and dietitian-nutritionist in Greenwich, Connecticut recommends women look for small fish at the grocery store when shopping for fish with low levels of mercury. While there are exceptions to every rule, larger fish generally contain higher amounts of mercury because the larger fish consume the smaller, which increases mercury concentrations in the larger, explains the FDA.
Bacteria lurk in meats and seafood that is not fully cooked, and while these bacteria are generally harmless, they can pose a risk of miscarriage and stillbirth to your unborn baby during pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. So the next time you're out for dinner, remember to ask for that steak to be cooked well done. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during pregnancy, women are 13 times more likely to become ill with listeriosis than the general population. Hot dogs and deli meat should be cooked thoroughly -- they're pretty safe to eat once they have been steamed. Stick to canned pate and meat spreads that you find on the store shelf and skip the kinds that need to be refrigerated. Eggs should be fully cooked, and if you're celebrating any holidays through your pregnancy, buy unstuffed poultry and make the stuffing yourself. If you're a brie- or feta-loving gal, it's time to discover your passion for cheese that's made from pasteurized milk for the next few months. Unpasteurized cheese can contain bacteria that can cause illnesses like listeriosis. While fresh milk and fruit juices, straight from the farm, may seem tempting, hold off on that temptation while you're pregnant and choose pasteurized alternatives to keep you and your baby safe.
The Verdict on Alcohol
There's been a lot of racket about the safety of consuming alcohol in moderation during pregnancy. If you're wondering if that glass of wine is really so bad, when it comes to pregnancy you'd best pass the glass to your partner and let him enjoy it for you. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no amount of alcohol that is considered safe during pregnancy.
If you're worried about giving up caffeine during pregnancy, it may come as a relief to find out that you don't have to surrender that morning cup of java entirely, says Schehr. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, up to 200 mg of caffeine a day is considered safe -- but keep in mind that your morning coffee or tea is not the only thing that contains caffeine. Even decaffeinated coffee has a small amount of caffeine, and it's lurking in various types of soda and chocolate, too. One more reason to cut back on these caffeinated snacks: the sugar they contain. "To promote overall good health, minimize sugar intake as much as possible," says Allison Reyna, a nutritionist and cofounder of Cheer Up Buttercups in Austin, Texas. She explains that "every teaspoon of sugar suppresses the immune system by four hours," and you want your immune system in tiptop shape throughout your pregnancy.