One of the most confusing things for pregnant women – especially if they are expecting their first baby – can be cutting through all the myths and old wives tales and figuring out just what they should and should not be eating while they are expecting. Even though in many cases they have been to their doctor and he or she has advised them about nutrition they then hear a tale from a relative or a friend that advises them to eat this or not eat that and it sounds plausible enough to be believable.
It is not just your family and friends that can confuse you either, the media does not help a lot of the time. Every week someone will probably publish a story that will contradict what your own doctor or midwife told you at your prenatal appointment just a few days ago. Eat lots of vegetables they told you, but then you see a news story that says you should avoid salad because its raw and it might have toxoplamosis (a form of bacteria) Eat fish your doctor told you, the omega 3s are good both for the baby and for you. But then you read a newspaper article about how all the fish in the sea are full of mercury and should be avoided. Its enough to drive you crazy.
Many of these myths and misconceptions about what makes up a healthy diet during pregnancy are fairly harmless, they just might deprive you of a food that you love and really did not have to give up. Others are not. Here are some of the most common pregnancy diet myths and a little about the fact behind the fiction.
Some women believe – or are told by well meaning family and friends – that now that they are “eating for two” their daily caloric intake needs to increase significantly to make sure that the growing baby develops properly and is healthy.
That is not the case though. Women need only to add a maximum of 300 calories extra above their normal intake (somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 is healthy, depending on your height) in order for Baby to be properly nourished. It is not the amount that an expectant Mum eats that will make a difference but what she eats.
Following a sensible, healthy diet and taking certain vitamins will provide your growing baby with the nutrients he or she needs to develop properly, not doubling your portions at mealtimes.
This myth is one that has been around for a while and certain doctors and scientists were actually the ones who started it. and there is some valid science behind the risk of consuming some fish that are contaminated with mercury which can damage a growing fetus. Further, more recent studies have found that this mainly applies to shark, tilefish and mackerel and that salmon and tuna, especially if it is farm raised are just fine to eat.
Lots of women hear the advice that they should avoid spicy foods because they are bad for her developing baby. That is not the case. Spicy foods may not be that great for you though, simply because they can cause heartburn in some people at the best of times and as your stomach is displaced when you are pregnant that tendency can be magnified, especially in the third trimester. If this is not a problem for you though you can carry on eating the spicy foods you love as long as they fall in with your general healthy eating plan.
No one really knows how this myth got started but its one you hear more often these days. The fact is that if you do not have a family history of such an allergy eating peanuts while pregnant will not cause a baby to develop one. Nuts are a really good source of protein and unsaturated fat so the occasional handful is actually good, not bad, for you.
Many pregnant women will hear that they should cut their salt intake because that will prevent swollen ankles, the medical term for which is edema. That again is not the case. Edema in pregnancy is a result of increased estrogen production and a higher blood volume.
Restricting salt during pregnancy can cause harm, both to Mum and the developing baby, by disrupting the delicate fluid balance in Mums body. While piling it on everything like snow is certainly not advisable your body needs sodium and an increase in progesterone that is normal is pregnant women is already going to be causing more of it than usual to be lost in your urine. When you use salt opt if you can for sea salt because it also contains iodide, another essential nutrient for expectant women and something that is now regularly cut out of store bought table salt.
Some nutritionists feel that a pregnant woman’s cravings are her body’s indication that she is lacking in a certain nutrient. For example a shortage of magnesium can trigger a craving for more chocolate. Although numerous studies have been done their is currently no medical or scientific studies that support these theories though. I personally like the logic that one researcher used, that if our bodies , in general, made us crave what it needs everyone would reach for a box of broccoli rather than a box of bon bons!
Many pregnant ladies experience food cravings and most of them that do also develop new aversions to foods and drinks they once loved. There is no harm in giving in to these cravings as long as the foods are within your healthy eating plan. But they should not be used as an excuse to load up on sugar and empty calories, so a “craving” is not a good excuse for eating a half pint of full fat ice cream in one sitting!
Another fact you should know is that what you eat is not directly passed to your baby! Your body absorbs whatever you’ve just consumed, then the fetus draws the necessary nutrients from you. As an ending note, these are just a few guidelines for better eating while you are pregnant. If you have a concern about a specific food give your gynae or obstetrician a call before you cook, just to get their advice.