You can finally put some of those mom-to-be diet rumors to rest. "Pregnancy is not a state where you have to be frightened that anything you do will result in a bad outcome. Most of the time pregnant women are very strong, and as long as it's not in excess, you can eat almost anything," says Dr. Bruce Young, M.D., and the Director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine.
"What's bad for mom is stuff that's raw -- especially raw fish or raw meat -- and raw vegetables that haven't been washed thoroughly," he explains. "There are certain things like unpasteurized milk that can make you sick, but these are things that will make the mom sick and won't hurt the baby."
Here are the surprising foods that researchers and doctors alike agree are A-OK for expectant women to consume:
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"When doctors say don't eat fish, they're talking about people who eat a great deal of fish, especially the kinds of fish that store mercury in their bodies," explains Dr. Young. These include predatory fish like swordfish, tuna, and catfish. "If you eat it every single day, you might increase the amount of mercury in your body, and some of that might get to the fetus, which might have a bad effect." Dr. Young recommends only eating it once or twice a week.
In terms of non-predatory fish, Dr. Young suggests avoiding farmed salmon but to eat wild salmon (which have Omega-3's and are good for both mom and baby) as much as you want. And it's definitely not against the rules to have canned tuna or sushi, just not too often. And make sure you're eating at high-quality restaurants with fresh ingredients.
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For many years, it was believed that pregnant women should avoid nuts altogether, or they risk their fetus contracting a serious nut allergy. However, "this is completely wrong," says Dr. Young. "There's some very interesting medical research that says if you want your baby not to be allergic that you should expose your baby to those foods when you're pregnant."
In fact, researchers who studied 8,205 mothers found that those women who consumed nuts at least five times a month were less likely to give birth to a baby with a nut allergy, as published in JAMA Pediatrics.
3. Unpasteurized cheeses
Dr. Young receives a lot of questions about these soft cheeses. While moms might get sick from eating them, Dr. Young says it will not hurt the baby. "I want to emphasize that there's very little you could do for bad effects on the baby, unless it's in excess."
You probably won't come across many unpasteurized cheeses in the U.S. anyway -- most of them are created with pasteurized milk and are safe for mom. Just don't eat anything that has expired.
What you should eat:
Speak with your doctor about the best diet for you and your child, but it's a safe bet to stick with foods that are enriched or fortified with folic acid. "Folic acid is the only specific vitamin that we know that clearly has been shown to prevent fetal malformations," Dr. Young explains.
Pregnant women need a lot of protein, such as cereals, beans, and meats. They also need a lot of carbs, which they can get from breads, cereals, and pasta. "Pregnant women are using much more energy, and need about 2,200 calories a day," says Dr. Young.
He wants to put to rest another misconception -- that you shouldn't gain too much weight when you're pregnant. "Eat right. Make sure you get enough folic acid in your diet. Use precautions to make sure that the food is washed, clean, and cooked, and do not worry your about weight. And eat all the peanuts you want."
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