Eating for Two? A Registered Dietitian’s Advice for Prenatal Nutrition
We are pleased to welcome registered dietitian and mom Alison Barkman for another guest post, this time featuring her expert advice on pregnancy nutrition.
Eating for Two?
Alison Barkman, MS, RD
While studying to become a registered dietitian, pregnancy was a small chunk of the curriculum squeezed among various science, management, and medical nutrition therapy courses. The true hands-on training for nutrition during pregnancy came when I counseled expectant mommies and during my own 9 months of pregnancy avoiding sushi, a glass of wine, or a yummy roast beef sandwich.
As a clinical dietitian I have counseled both healthy expectant mothers as well as those with pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. I am never one to use the word “no” when it comes to food. Unfortunately, in the case of expecting mothers, there are some temporary diet no-no’s to avoid in order for mom and the developing baby to keep safe. I was surprised to find out how many women, well into their second and third trimesters, were misinformed and unaware of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of healthy eating while pregnant. Some were eating cold cuts, unpasteurized cheeses, and gaining weight like rapid fire. Others thought “limiting high mercury fish” meant stop eating fish completely.
If you’re a mom-to-be and confused about how to eat, here are the most important tips to follow:
Eating for Two Does Not Mean License to Pig Out!
You ARE eating for two when it comes to consuming foods and drinks that are beneficial to you and your developing baby. But when it comes to consuming calories, pregnancy is not a license to inhale any donut or ice cream sundae that isn’t bolted down. In the first trimester, the average expected weight gain is approximately one pound per MONTH (not week). If you are underweight, you may want to have 100 extra calories/day during the first trimester. If you suffer from “morning sickness”, or as I experienced, all-day sickness, you may actually eat less than normal and lose some weight. This shouldn’t be an issue once the nausea subsides; hopefully you’ll make up for eating in your second trimester.
Once the second and third trimester hit, you only need approximately 300 extra calories per day. This is not a blanket statement to be followed by all pregnant women. This will vary for different women based on several factors including pre-pregnancy weight, exercise levels during pregnancy, and current diseases (e.g., diabetes).
Here’s a snapshot of what an extra 300 calories per day can be:
• Add a small handful nuts (2 Tbsp) to your morning cereal = 100 calories
• 6oz low-fat Stonyfield yogurt for an afternoon snack = 135 calories
• 8oz glass of non-fat milk with dinner = 90 calories
There’s your extra 300 calories! Have a general idea of what you’re eating. If you’re taking in 600 extra calories a day, and your OB/GYN makes a comment about your weight gain being on the high side, it’s time to cut back a bit.
I’ll Have a Roast Beef Sandwich, Please
Sometimes you just want a good turkey or roast beef sandwich. This is a luxury that experts advise to avoid while pregnant. Deli meats and hot dogs can harbor listeria. Listeria may cause miscarriage, premature delivery, infection or in some cases, stillbirth. Many expecting moms I talk to have heard of avoiding unpasteurized soft cheeses (brie, goat, feta) for this reason, but so many never heard of the cold cut issue. It is reported that you can safely eat cold cuts if they are re-heated to a steaming hot temperature. I nuked my turkey one day until it resembled raw hide. I’m not sure the end result was worth it!
What? No Sushi?
It seems to make sense that raw fish may not be a good idea while pregnant. I found a way to still enjoy sushi when pregnant – order a vegetable roll, avocado roll, or other rolls that have either cooked fish or veggies.
When it comes to cooked fish, women hear “watch your fish intake” and interpret it as “don’t eat fish at all”. If you enjoy seafood, you should certainly fit it into your diet. There are numerous health benefits for you and your developing baby when fish is consumed in moderation. The omega-3 fatty acid content of fish can help fetal brain development and may be associated with higher IQs, less behavioral problems and better verbal skills.
If you want to avoid fish, keep away from large ones like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish. The larger the fish, the more mercury it contains. You can safely eat 12 oz/week of low-mercury fish such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, catfish, and cod.
Caffeine & Alcohol Buzz
The latest low-down on caffeine is that women can safely drink approximately 150-300 mg of caffeine per day while pregnant. To put this into perspective, a regular-sized Dunkin’ Donuts coffee has 210mg caffeine. Check out this caffeine chart to find out the caffeine content of your favorite beverages, from coffee to tea, soda and even chocolate.
Most all pregnant women are well informed that alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy. Alcohol, along with all other nutritional recommendations, obviously come down to the mother’s choice. The evidence is there, and you need to make a decision. Do I have that champagne toast on New Years? Do I eat the turkey sandwich? Should I stuff my face anyway and risk getting gestational diabetes or having trouble losing weight post-partum?
Be sensible. Think healthy. Here’s to a healthy pregnancy!
Read more from Alison on her blog: The Healthy Spoonful
So, what’s your take on eating during pregnancy?
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