What/how much should I eat during pregnancy?
We need an average of only 300 extra calories daily during pregnancy (one bagel or half a deli sandwich). Eating for two will result in excessive weight gain. Most women will lose only 15-20 pounds in the first few weeks postpartum, with the rest stored as fat, so weight gain of 20-30 pounds is ideal (0-5 pounds in the first 12 weeks, and one-half pound to 1 pound a week after that). Eat small frequent meals to avoid heartburn and hypoglycemia. Eat what you enjoy, but make healthy choices and go easy on sugars and starches to prevent excessive weight gain and gestational diabetes.
Certain fish accumulate high levels of mercury from swimming in polluted waters. The FDA recommends avoiding those fish that are highest in mercury, including shark, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel. Shellfish, shrimp and smaller fish such as snapper, catfish and salmon are lower in mercury, and up to 12 ounces a week is recommended. Canned tuna is low in mercury and can be included in the total of 12 ounces a week. Tuna steak is higher in mercury than canned tuna, and should be limited to 6 ounces a week. If you would like more information on fish in pregnancy, go to the EPA’s Water Science & Fish Advice website.
Unpasteurized cheeses and deli meats can carry Listeria, a bacterium that can cause miscarriage and fetal infection. While this is extremely uncommon in the USA, it is wise to avoid regular intake of unpasteurized dairy products or deli meats for this reason. Listeria is killed by high temperatures so deli meats heated in the microwave until steaming are certainly safe. Highly processed meats such as hotdogs contain chemicals that are not healthy for any humans, pregnant or not. While there is no evidence of direct fetal harm caused by eating hotdogs or other highly processed meats, we recommend making healthier choices except on rare occasions.
Raw fish and meat can carry parasites and other microbes that could cause potential harm to the mother and fetus. While these infections are extremely rare, it is wise to avoid raw meat and fish for this reason.
There is no safe limit of alcohol in pregnancy. Complete avoidance is the best policy. Caffeine is safe in small quantities (1-2 caffeinated beverages daily).
There is no scientific evidence that nutrasweet (aspartame) or other sugar substitutes are harmful in pregnancy.