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Pregnancy diet dos and don’ts

You’re eating for two (or more) now. Does that mean you have to develop a craving for pickles and ice cream? Not necessarily. But if you do start to feel the overwhelming need to consume something unusual, that might be your body telling you it needs more protein, sodium, potassium, calcium or fat. Here are some guidelines to make sure your body — and your baby — get what they need.

The foods your baby is craving

Calcium, protein, fruits, vegetables and grains are part of a healthy diet even when you aren’t pregnant. But right now, your baby is depending on you to give them the nutrition they need. 

Calcium – Eat three servings a day to build your baby’s bones, teeth and nervous system. 

  • 2 percent milk or soy milk (calcium fortified)
  • Pudding
  • Ice cream
  • Orange juice (calcium fortified)
  • Firm cheeses
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Milk-based soup
  • Broccoli

Protein – Eat 7 ounces a day to give your baby strong muscles and help their immune system fight infection. Some plant products, such as soybeans and quinoa, contain all nine essential amino acids that both your bodies need. Other foods are less complete, so it’s good to eat a variety.

  • Lean meat, such as poultry or fish
  • Cooked eggs
  • Hummus
  • Peanut butter
  • Rice and beans (7 grams of protein per cup when served together)
  • Almonds and other nuts
  • Tofu, edamame and other soy products
  • Quinoa (full of magnesium, iron and fiber)
  • Lentils (rich in fiber, iron and potassium)
  • Chia and hemp seeds (low in calories and full of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids)

Whole grains – Choose whole grains to support your baby’s nervous system and skin. They’re better for you and your baby, because whole grains haven’t been processed and still contain the dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins that are missing from refined grains. Look for products made from whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oatmeal and whole cornmeal and try to eat 7 ounces a day.

  • Bread
  • Hot cereal
  • Pasta 
  • Brown rice
  • Crackers

Iron – Eating plenty of iron creates a healthy blood supply for your baby. And there are so many delicious choices.

  • Spinach
  • Dried fruits
  • Beef
  • Lentils
  • Beans

Fruits and vegetables — Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to provide vitamins for growth, eyes, skin, hair, gums, glands and a healthy immune system. Two cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables a day are your recommended servings.

Stay hydrated — Drink at least 120 ounces of water a day. That’s 15 full 8-ounce glasses. 

Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Bacteria such as Listeria and Salmonella can cause premature labor, significant illness for your baby or even stillbirth. Your baby does not have a strong, independent immune system to fight off foodborne bacterial illness, so it’s important to be careful about what you eat. Stay away from the following:

  • Raw eggs are a source of Salmonella, so make sure all eggs are cooked thoroughly. Avoid soft-boiled eggs, eggs with soft yolks, cookie dough, Caesar salad dressing, meringue and homemade mayonnaise. 
  • Raw sprouts including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean, should be avoided. 
  • Salad bars, because you don’t know if the greens were washed — or what they might have been washed in. Don’t risk it.
  • Processed lunch meats contain preservatives and may harbor Listeria.
  • Uncooked meats, or cooked meats that are too pink because they haven’t been cooked to a temperature of 160° F, could be harmful for your baby.
  • Fish that contain high levels of mercury, such as shark, swordfish, tuna steaks and canned tuna, should not be a part of your pregnancy diet.
  • Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame should always be avoided.
  • Unpasteurized drinks or foods such as raw milk, eggnog and apple cider can be dangerous for your baby.
  • Energy drinks and other super-sweetened beverages like soda and powdered drink mixes are never a good idea.

Of course, avoid alcohol and cigarettes. And since too much caffeine can increase your blood pressure, limit your caffeine to about 200 mg per day — that’s about one cup of coffee.  

You may find that the foods that are bad for you and your baby become unappealing during pregnancy. Food aversions can be nature’s way of keeping you both safe. 

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Call 800-275-6401 and say “women’s services.” 
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