Pregnancy is certainly an exciting time in a woman’s life — but it can be a confusing one, too. Everyone from your grandmother to your BFF to strangers on the subway is giving you advice about what to do, how to eat, and when to exercise, not to mention all kinds of tips for after the baby is born. Meanwhile, you’re just trying not to throw up or fall asleep!
We’ve got you covered when it comes to nutrition. Here’s an easy-to-understand list of DOs and DON’Ts for the best possible pregnancy nutrition.
DO Have a Prenatal Checkup Right Away
As soon as you suspect you are pregnant or have a positive pregnancy test, get thee to your ob/gyn. Your obstetrician will let you know, based on your personal medical history, if there are any particular nutritional guidelines you should follow. She’ll be able to answer any questions you have about your diet, and will even give you some good online or print resources to consult.
DON’T Eat for Two
Yeah, this one’s kind of a bummer. Lots of women have visions of munching bon-bons, pickles, ice cream, and whatever else their hearts and taste buds desire while their partner rubs their feet. But in truth, study says you should only be consuming an extra 350 to 500 calories per day during pregnancy.
DO Get Folic Acid
Research says, this is a type of B vitamin that is essential for the healthy development of your baby. It can prevent premature birth, low birth weight, and a particular type of birth defects called Neural Tube Defects.
“There are enough birth injuries to worry about that can happen during delivery,” says Ohio birth injury attorney John A. Lancione. “On the other hand, Neural Tube Defects are almost 100% preventable with good prenatal care and nutrition, so why take chances?”
DO Steer Clear of Sushi
Got an intense craving for a nori roll? Make it vegetarian, say pregnancy nutrition experts. That’s because raw or undercooked seafood, both fish and shellfish, can present the risk of bacterial infection. While the risk is pretty low, getting food poisoning is more dangerous for pregnant women.
DON’T Consume Processed Meats
Sorry to say, street meat lovers, but hot dogs, sausages, and salami are also off-limits. These processed meats have a greater chance of transmitting bacteria that can lead to listeria.
If you’re really craving a salami sandwich or need your bologna fix, you can mitigate the risk somewhat by heating the meat to the boiling point, either in a pan on the stove or by microwaving it. That ought to kill the bacteria. But again, it’s better to play it safe for the next nine months.
DO Get Plenty of Healthy Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for keeping our bodies functioning well, but they’re even more essential for women who are expecting. According to American Pregnancy Association, fish oil capsules are an easy way to get these healthy fats without worrying about the high mercury levels sometimes associated with fish rich in omega-3s. Do it for the healthy development of your baby’s eyes and brain!
DO Continue to Eat a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet
There are still plenty of folks who say veganism and pregnancy don’t mix, but you can still adhere to your animal-free diet. Just be super-mindful that you are getting enough protein, calcium, iron, and B vitamins. It’s easier to meet these requirements if you do eat meat or at least eggs and dairy, but it can be done through vegetables, nuts, legumes, and grains, too.
Don’t feel bad if you are a vegetarian or vegan who craves meat during pregnancy. Go ahead and indulge those hankerings if you’re having them. Choose sustainably farmed, organic meat, eggs, cheese, or milk to help yourself feel better about the choice. But remember that your body knows best during this time.
DO Limit Caffeine Intake
In recent years, there has been a great deal of conflicting information about whether or not coffee and other sources of caffeine are safe when a woman is pregnant. To be on the safe side, limit caffeine to 200 mg. per day. That’s about 12 oz. of coffee.
Remember that caffeine is also in other beverages, like some kinds of tea and soda, as well as some OTC pain relievers.
Closing Thoughts on Pregnancy Nutrition
Of course, you are working hard growing an actual human being inside your body, so our last DO is this: DO enjoy an occasional treat when you are pregnant! Particularly if you are following these tips and eating a healthy diet of lean meats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, it’s OK to have a bowl of ice cream or cheeseburger every once in a while.
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