If a healthy diet wasn’t your top number one priority before you got pregnant, don’t be surprised to find it top of mind as soon as you see that magical second line on the pee stick.
A quick Google on healthy foods to eat while pregnant and what to avoid will yield an avalanche of information that is sometimes contradictory.
When I was looking for the no-no list when I found out I was pregnant, some sources make it seem like anything could be a hazard, while experienced mamas on forums said they ate everything without issues.
This begged the question, where is the happy medium? I’m always all about moderation and balance, so here’s my distilled, naturopathic take on eating healthy while pregnant, do’s and don’ts.
Foods to FOCUS ON for eating healthy while pregnant
Our bodies are made of protein and water, and so is your baby. Make sure you get enough everyday in a variety of forms, to ensure proper development.
Meats, beans, lentils, quinoa, soy, nuts, seeds, protein smoothies:
Your own energy reserves and well-being will benefit from sufficient protein in the diet. Making a green smoothie is an easy and delicious way to get protein.
Constipation is a common pregnancy complaint, so make sure you stay hydrated and eat your fiber daily.
Vegetables (leaves, stems and roots), beans, lentils, and fruit:
Besides bowel movements, fiber helps keep your body detoxifying well, to maintain a clean and happy interior for the little one to grow in.
Always have some water on you, and sip at it all day. Yes, I know, you’re already running to the bathroom a ton, but keeping hydrated will help keep your energy up and prevent cramping.
Frequency and quantity of eating:
As your uterus expands, there will be less and less room for your stomach and intestines, so you might find that you can’t have larger meals any more
Small, snack-sized meals, every few hours are going to benefit you more, but keeping your fuel reserves up, and preventing discomfort and heartburn.
Eat organic, if possible:
In an effort to give your baby the best start in life, if it’s in your budget, organic foods are going to contain fewer chemicals and pesticides.
Especially important to consider buying organic are meats and produce on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list.
Foods to AVOID in pregnancy:
Fish that are high in mercury:
Tuna, shark, swordfish, marlin, king mackerel. Rather, smaller fish like wild salmon, sardines, mackerels, anchovies, and herrings are wonderful foods for pregnancy
No safe limits have been established as to alcohol intake in gestation, so make friends with “near-beer” if you crave a drink (it’s not as bad as some make it seem!)
Caffeine has been associated with low birth weight babies, and other complications.
The generally recommended maximum dose is around 200 mg of caffeine, which is about 1-1.5 cups of coffee (and I mean 1 cup, not a Venti)
It is also about 4 cups of black tea, or 6 cups of green tea, depending on how steeped they are-err on the lighter steep to be safe.
Don’t forget that sodas and energy drinks have caffeine, too!
Deli meats/cold cuts:
Everyone should be avoiding these, pregnant or not. Deli and processed meats almost always contain nitrates and nitrites. These chemicals help preserve the look, taste, and smell of the meat. Even “natural” deli meats that contain celery extract – still nitrates, just a different guise!
Nitrates and nitrites have been closely linked to cancers such as colon cancer.
High salt is also a common problem with processed meats, which can contribute to high blood pressure – bad news during pregnancy. Sorry, but your bacon love affair has to be scaled back!
A note on foods like soft cheeses and sushi:
You will likely see these mentioned a lot on ‘No lists’ due to a risk of food poisoning. I ADORE sushi, so I was bummed about it first, but looked into it some more.
In Canada at least, there are food regulations in place, that when followed correctly greatly minimize risk of food-borne illness. Sushi meat for example, must always be frozen prior to serving to kill off any potential parasites (that’s right – “fresh” is still frozen).
My advice is that if you obtain your cheese, meat, and sushi from high-quality and reputable markets and restaurants, you shouldn’t run into any trouble. Same if you follow good food safety rules at home. Remember – quality and moderation! It is always safest to abstain, but I personally view is as a very occasional treat.