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6 Tips for Safe Eating During Pregnancy

Eating during pregnancy is tricky. There are so many rules on what you can and can’t eat – it’s absolutely mind-blowing. Alcohol is obviously bad, and caffeine during pregnancy is only OK in moderation. Eating chocolate in pregnancy is safe, as long as you don’t overdo it. The list can go on and on.

All these restrictions can make your head spin. When you’re pregnant, you don’t want to do anything that may jeopardize your developing baby’s health. But when you throw food cravings into the mix, it’s hard to resist the urge to indulge.

Keep the following healthy eating tips in mind, and safe eating during pregnancy won’t seem like a drag.

Fish is Healthy – but Skip the Sushi and Raw Seafood

Fully cooked fish are safe to eat during pregnancy, but you’ll want to skip on the sushi and raw seafood during pregnancy. Raw and undercooked fish may possibly harbor bacteria and parasites that can harm your unborn baby.

Fish is a major source of omega-three fatty acids (especially DHA and EPA), which are essential for your growing baby’s brain and eye development. Fish is also high in protein, vitamin D, and other important nutrients that promote a healthy pregnancy. This is a part of your diet that you don’t want to avoid during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, almost all fish contains some mercury. High concentrations of mercury can harm your baby’s brain and nervous system. Researchers are still debating what level of mercury is actually harmful, but it’s considered safe for pregnant women to eat up to 12 ounces (or two servings) of fish every week.

You will want to avoid eating king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish, and shark. These types of fish are particularly high in mercury.

Salmon, herring, rainbow trout, mackerel, whitefish, and sardines are considered low in mercury and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You should consider eating two servings of these fish a week.

If you love canned tuna, you shouldn’t eat more than 12 ounces a week of the canned “chunk light” tuna, and less than 6 ounces of the canned “solid white” or albacore tuna.

Keep this tip for safe eating during pregnancy, and you’ll be able to satisfy your seafood craving while keeping your baby safe in the womb!

Stay Away from Soft Cheese Made with Unpasteurized Milk

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It is hard to resist the temptation of cheese and crackers. You need to be careful with the cheeses that you choose to eat during pregnancy. Pay attention and read the labels of the cheese you want to buy.

Imported soft cheese should be avoided. Soft cheeses that are made from raw milk can carry disease-causing organisms, including a bacterium called listeria, which can be deadly to your unborn baby. You will want to avoid soft cheese, like feta cheese, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, and Gorgonzola cheese.

Most of the soft cheese sold in the United States is made with pasteurized milk, and they are considered safe to eat during pregnancy. However, for the purposes of safe eating during pregnancy, always read labels on any cheese product that you buy.

Pasteurized products are safe; unpasteurized are not. Keep that healthy eating tip in mind!

Avoid Deli Meats and Hot Dogs Unless They’ve Been Thoroughly Heated

This is an important healthy eating tip to remember.

It’s not safe for pregnant women to eat hot dogs, deli meats, and pâté unless these food products have been thoroughly heated until they are steaming hot. All of these prepared meats can become contaminated with listeria. And regardless of what you may think, unlike other bacteria, listeria continues to grow at refrigerator temperatures.

Expecting mothers are 20 times more likely to contract listeriosis – which can lead to miscarriage and preterm delivery.

To protect yourself and your unborn child, if you have a hankering for a hot dog or a honey ham sandwich, always reheat these meats in the microwave or on the stove until they are steaming hot.

Chocolate is Safe in Moderation

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Safe eating during pregnancy doesn’t mean your diet has to be boring. Eating chocolate in pregnancy is considered safe – as long as you don’t overdo it. Chocolate is sweet and delicious, but don’t allow it to overtake your diet. Chocolate is loaded with calories and sugar, and this can lead to excessive weight gain. Staying within the recommended weight gain for your size is best.

One major concern about eating too much chocolate is the caffeine overload. Keep your caffeine intake to below 200 mg a day. Obviously, unless you eat a lot of chocolate and drink way too many caffeinated beverages, you can stay underneath this maximum.

Like with everything else, moderation is key.

Substitute Healthy Foods for Junk Food

When that sweet tooth hits you, aim to eat more fruit to satisfy your craving. This healthy eating tip is hard to do, but try it – it may just work for you.

You might also consider substituting the junk food you’re craving for a healthier alternative. For example, substitute ice cream for nonfat frozen yogurt or sherbet. If you want potato chips, try the baked potato chips or tortilla chips. Hungry for cookies? Munch on graham crackers or low sugar cookies instead.

It’s OK to splurge once in awhile. Just try to aim for eating a healthy and balanced diet and you’ll be fine.

Don’t Forget to Take Your Prenatal Vitamin

In the perfect world, eating a balanced and healthy diet would give the mom-to-be all the vitamins and nutrients that she and her developing baby require. Unfortunately, this isn’t realistic. Pregnant women need to take a prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement to maximize the chance that their baby will be healthy.

Even before you conceive, you should start taking a prenatal multivitamin. Make sure that the multivitamin supplement that you choose has at least 600 mcg of folic acid. A lack of folic acid has been linked to causing a type of birth defect called neural tube defects – like Spina Bifida.

Neural tube defects often occur in the very earliest stage of pregnancy, even before you realize that you’re pregnant. So if you are actively trying to conceive, take a multivitamin with folic acid in it. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women who take the recommended daily dose of folic acid (400 to 800 mcg) beginning at least one month before conception and throughout the first trimester can reduce their developing baby’s risk of having neural tube defects by 50 to 70 percent.

Another important nutrient that might help prevent neutral tube defects is choline. During pregnancy, it’s important that you get 450 mg of choline every day. Many prenatal vitamins on the market don’t contain this important nutrient, so you will have to eat lots of food sources of choline. Leafy green vegetables (like spinach), eggs, meat and fish are good sources of choline.

Vitamin D is another important supplement to take during pregnancy. In the second and third trimester, you may need to take extra iron or calcium supplements.

Talk to your doctor for recommendations on the right prenatal multivitamin for your individual case.

Good luck and happy eating!

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

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