Now that you’re eating for 2 (or more!), this is not the time to cut calories or go on a diet. In fact, it’s just the opposite — you need about 300 extra calories a day, and possibly more later in your pregnancy when your baby grows quickly.
“Though you’re eating for 2, don’t eat 2 times the calories,” said Sally Phillips, a registered dietitian at Akron Children’s Hospital. “Try to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day at consistent times. Your baby will benefit from a consistent source of energy.”
But while you’re munching away, satisfying those pregnancy cravings, there are certain foods that you should avoid. Food-borne illnesses, such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis, can be life threatening to an unborn baby and may cause birth defects or even miscarriage.
Foods you’ll want to steer clear of during pregnancy include:
- Soft, unpasteurized cheeses (often advertised as “fresh”), such as feta, goat, Brie, Camembert and blue cheese
- Unpasteurized milk, juices and apple cider
- Raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs, including mousse, tiramisu, raw cookie dough, homemade ice cream and Caesar dressing (although some store-bought brands of this dressing may not contain raw eggs)
- Raw or undercooked meats, fish (sushi) or shellfish
- Processed meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats (unless they are reheated until steaming)
And although fish and shellfish can be an extremely healthy part of your pregnancy diet (they contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and are high in protein and low in saturated fat), you should avoid eating:
- King mackerel
- Tuna steak
These types of fish may contain high levels of mercury, which can cause damage to the developing brain of a fetus. When you choose seafood, limit the total amount to about 12 ounces per week — that’s about 2 meals.
Also, if you like canned tuna, eat no more than 6 ounces per week. And, be sure to check any local advisories before consuming recreationally caught fish.
Fuel your growing fetus
Healthy eating is always important, but especially when you’re pregnant. So make sure your calories come from nutritious foods that will contribute to your baby’s growth and development.
Try to maintain a well-balanced diet that incorporates the dietary guidelines including:
- Lean meats
- Whole-grain breads
- Low-fat dairy product
By eating a healthy, balanced diet you’re more likely to get the nutrients you need. But you will need more of the essential nutrients (especially calcium, iron and folic acid) than you did before you became pregnant. Your health care provider will prescribe prenatal vitamins to be sure both you and your growing baby are getting enough.
But taking prenatal vitamins doesn’t mean you can eat a diet that’s lacking in nutrients. It’s important to remember that you still need to eat well while pregnant. Prenatal vitamins are meant to supplement your diet, and aren’t meant to be your only source of much-needed nutrients.
“Prenatal vitamins are not a license to eat whatever you want because they do not contain protein, fiber and calcium,” said Phillips. “Plus, eating food is more fun!”