Get the Skinny: Pregnancy Nutrition & Myths

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Pregnancy is filled with emotions, and of course there’s the obsessing over whether you’re doing just the right things to keep your baby and yourself as protected and healthy as possible.  In today’s Get the Skinny, Molly will help to alleviate at least some of the pressure when it comes what you put in your body, with a few key guidelines for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. 

Myth:  You’re eating for two.

Reality: It’s more like one and a fifth.  And there’s no need for extra calories at all for the first 12 weeks.  Then you need just over 300 extra calories for the second trimester, and just over 400 extra for the third.

Myth:  Caffeine is off-limits

Reality: The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) says that pregnant women should limit caffeine to 300 milligrams (mg) daily; the American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended upper limit is 200 mg daily – about the equivalent of two cups of coffee.

Myth: Avoid any soft cheeses

Reality: As long as they’re pasteurized, soft cheeses are perfectly fine in a prenatal diet.

Myth: Steer clear of shellfish

Reality:  Shellfish can fit into a prenatal diet; guidelines call for not more than 12 ounces weekly (exposure to mercury increase risk of miscarriage and developmental delays).  High mercury fish to avoid include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish.

Lower-mercury seafood includes salmon, catfish, tilapia, shrimp, crawfish, oysters and canned light tuna (fresh tuna and canned albacore tuna contain moderate amounts of mercury and should be limited to no more than six ounces per week).

More of Molly’s Recs:

Add prenatal vitamin with DHA – ideally start taking at least 3 months before pregnancy

Nix any alcohol.  Some say that a little alcohol in moderation is probably safe, but both the AND and ACOG say not to drink at all, that consuming alcohol during pregnancy is associated with neurological and developmental birth defects.  Even moderate drinking during pregnancy may have behavioral or developmental consequences.

Go natural – avoid artificial sweeteners. The AND and ACOG both say that aspartame (Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), sucralose (Splenda), and acesulfame potassium (found in diet soft drinks like Coke Zero) are safe to consume during pregnancy.  But AND notes that saccharin can cross the placenta and stay in the baby’s tissues, however, and the long term effects if any, aren’t known.  And a study of nearly 60,000 pregnant women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a daily intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks may increase the risk of preterm delivery.

Click here to read Molly’s full column on prenatal nutrition in The Times-Picayune.