We all know that it’s important to eat healthy, especially when we’re “eating for two.” Ask around, however, and you’ll get some very different ideas on what a healthy diet for a pregnant woman should look like.
Most of us are familiar with the warnings:
- Don’t eat too much wild-caught fish because of Mercury content.
- Avoid prepackaged salads.
- Eliminate or limit caffeine.
- Eliminate alcohol.
- Supplement with prenatal vitamins.
It can be tough to pick and choose which information and advice to follow. The best we can do is to consider both long held beliefs (there’s usually a pretty good reason why beliefs that stick around last as long as they do) and the results of the latest research. Then, choose your diet given the best information available, realizing that your baby will probably be fine even if the current scoop on pregnancy diets falls out of favor next year.
Two recent studies suggest that pregnant women should be eating plenty of fruit and fish. The same studies suggest that pregnant women should limit intake of wild-caught fish and fruit juice.
The Benefits of Eating Fish
The main benefit of eating fish (especially oily fish such as salmon) is that it increases the levels of Omega-3 in both the mother and baby. This in turn reduces free radical cells. More importantly, Omega-3 fatty acids are important to your baby’s brain development.
Fish can be a double-edged sword, however. Certain kinds of fish-especially larger species-have high levels of Mercury, which is known to damage baby’s nervous system and hinder brain development. The fish you should avoid altogether while pregnant include:
- King Mackerel
Most other types of fish are safe to eat once or twice a week. Fish that are farm raised (rather than caught in the wild) tend to be lower in Mercury levels and safer to eat while you are pregnant.
Salmon is one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Other seafood options for pregnant women include:
The Benefits of Eating Fruit
In recent years, there has been some speculation that eating lots of fruit during pregnancy may lead to gestational diabetes. A recent study conducted at Louisiana State University has largely debunked that notion.
Pregnant women can eat a variety of fruits. Most fruit is highly nutritious, and eating a variety of fresh fruit will go a long way towards meeting your daily nutritional needs. Different fruits are high in different vitamins. Many fruits also have antioxidant qualities.
It’s worth noting that there appears to be a link between drinking large amounts of fruit juice and gestational diabetes, though the exact reasons for this are unclear.
What dietary changes are you making now that you’re eating for two?