Five Food Rules for Pregnant Women
While it may seem like there are hundreds of things pregnant women shouldn’t eat, Rebecca Dupont, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula obstetrician says it’s not that complicated.
“If you follow a few simple food rules, odds are, you and your baby will be just fine,” says Dr. Dupont, who estimates she’s delivered more than 1,000 babies.
- Avoid Raw Meat and Raw Fish. Raw or undercooked meat, particularly pork, lamb and venison, can cause toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can lead to fetal brain damage. Similarly, poorly prepared raw fish can harbor dangerous parasites and bacteria.
- Skip Unpasteurized Cheeses, Soft Cheeses and Deli Meat. The bacteria Listeria can live in unpasteurized cheeses and pasteurized soft cheeses such as goat, feta and Brie. Deli meat can also be a concern; however, heating up slices usually makes them safe. While occurrences are rare, Listeria can cause dangerous complications including miscarriage.
- Eat Fish – Selectively. To avoid consuming high levels of mercury, don’t eat large, deep-sea fish, including tuna (canned or otherwise), king mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish. But keep some fish in your diet. Salmon, sardines, anchovies and freshwater trout provide beneficial nutrients including omega-3s, which may boost fetal brain development.
- Cut Caffeine. Despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to eliminate all caffeine from your diet. In general, studies show it’s safe to have up to 200 milligrams of caffeine per day, the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee. However, Dr. Dupont notes, “If you choose to drink coffee, keep in mind it’s a diuretic, so you’ll make more trips to the bathroom. Since it’s vital to stay hydrated during pregnancy, you’ll need to drink more fluids to make up for this.”
- Lose the Booze. While studies have clearly demonstrated that binge drinking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome – with severe effects ranging from developmental delays to abnormal facial features – the impact of small amounts of alcohol is much less understood. Given the unclear science, most American doctors recommend avoiding alcohol during pregnancy. If you did drink before you knew you were pregnant, Dr. Dupont says not to worry if it was a glass or two. “I’ve had plenty of patients in this situation,” she says, “and their babies were just fine.”