Top Ten Food Myths in Pregnancy – by Nurtured Foundation’s guest blogger, Dr. Jessica Katz.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Now that you’re pregnant, I am sure you have lots of questions to accommodate your new life style. Some of the most asked questions are regarding the Do’s and Don’ts of food in pregnancy. Here are my top 10 food myths in pregnancy that I hope will help answer some of your questions. if you have any other ones, please ask me or your own OBGYN, that’s why we are here!
1. You’re eating for two
While I wish this was the case, this remains one of the most prevalent food myths in pregnancy. Pregnant women really only need an extra 300 calories a day, and that is only starting in the second trimester. 300 calories is the equivalent of one candy bar or a few cookies, so the weight adds on quickly if you’re eating a few extra desserts or snacks a day. Try adding healthier extra snacks to your diet, such as a handful of nuts, greek yoghurt with cinnamon and honey, a fruit smoothie with almond butter or a few hard boiled eggs with truffle salt (have you ever tried truffle salt? You can thank me later).
2. Everyone has cravings in pregnancy
While my close friend woke up every night around midnight to grill a steak because her cravings for meat were so intense during pregnancy, to the disappointment of my husband who would have been thrilled eat cheeseburgers with me every night, I did not experience any type of food cravings with either one of my pregnancies. Everyone is different in this regard. It does not mean anything one way or the other. One thing you do want to be wary of is any strange craving like for ice cubes or detergent, which is often found in some kinds of anemia. If you ever have any of these cravings, please speak to your doctor.
3. Stay away from fish because of the mercury content
This is a big food myth in pregnancy. Even though there is mercury found in fish, it is important to make sure to eat around 12 ounces of fish a week. Try to stay away from the high mercury content fish types like swordfish, tile fish, king mackerel and shark while going instead for salmon, tuna, trout or herring. These types have a lower mercury content and contain the very important DHA (docosahexanoic acid), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, that is essential for your baby’s brain and eye development. Low levels of DHA have been linked to postpartum depression as well as the possibility of lower scores on tests for fine motor, communication, and social development skills from ages six months to eight years. Don’t worry if you don’t eat fish, DHA is found in many forms of prenatal vitamins and is added in items like orange juice and yoghurt. Try to aim for 200 mg per day
4. You can’t be a vegetarian or vegan and have a healthy pregnancy
Although the protein and vitamin B12 found in meat are important in promoting a healthy pregnancy, these contents are not found solely in meat. Veggie burgers, edamame, tempeh, soy nuts and tofu will all help you get towards the 60 g of protein that are recommended daily. The vitamin B12 found in meat, poultry, eggs or dairy can be a little trickier to ingest if you’re vegan or vegetarian, but it is often found in prenatal vitamins. If you don’t eat dairy, calcium can be found in foods like fortified cereal, cooked spinach, broccoli, black beans, figs and kale.
5. You can’t drink caffeine
A food myth in pregnancy that seems like a big one is no caffeine. Giving up caffeine is one of the biggest struggles of pregnant women. The good news is that you don’t have to. Sure, you should limit the amount you drink and try to aim for no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day, but you don’t have to give it up completely. To compare, a mug of coffee is 140 mg, a can of Coke is 40 mg and a mug of tea is 75 mg
6. Fruits like papaya or pineapple can cause abortions
I have had more than one patient ask for clarification on this. There are not any scientific studies that prove that these fruits cause a miscarriage. Like any foods, you want to eat everything in moderation, including those two fruits listed above.
7. You cannot eat any deli meats
As long as you heat up the turkey or any other deli meat until it is steaming, there should be no problem with you consuming it. Although most of us are used to cold turkey or salami on rye, try new sandwich alternatives, like a turkey reuben, hot roast beef with horseradish sauce or rotisserie chicken pieces with avocado and tomato. If you can, try to buy the meats with the lowest nitrate content
8. You should avoid soft cheese while pregnant
Pregnant women were told in the past to avoid soft cheeses like brie, feta and camembert and soft blue-veined cheese like Danish blue and gorgonzola due to an increased chance of listeria growing in these types. However, as long as it is pasteurized (most cheese produced in the US is pasteurized), these types are allowed, obviously in moderation. In other countries like Mexico, the cheese is often unpasteurized or can be a mix of both unpasteurized and pasteurized and should best be avoided. For many, they are glad this is just a food myth in pregnancy.
9. Drinking dark beer helps the milk come in
While it does help the mother relax, which can help with milk letdown, there is nothing special about the barley in the beer that helps with milk production. But, have 1 or 2 drinks anyway after you give birth, you deserve it!
10. You can’t eat sushi
This is a tricky one. There is no issue whatsoever with eating vegetarian sushi rolls or rolls with cooked fish of low mercury content. There are different thoughts on the raw sushi aspect, which is why it is important to discuss it with your own OBGYN. Eating raw sushi and fish is a big part of a healthy diet during pregnancy in Japan, as long as it contains a lower mercury fish and some doctors in the US have no issue with their patients eating raw sushi in limited quantities.
In addition to being Nurtured Foundation’s go-to expert regarding food myths in pregnancy, Dr. Jessica Katz is a local OBGYN with University Hospitals of Cleveland. She returned to her hometown of Cleveland after completing her training at Mount Sinai Hospital of Chicago. Her favorite part of OBGYN is forming the special lifelong relationships with her patients, and providing them with the best care possible. Dr. Katz maintains office locations in both Garfield Heights and Twinsburg, and offers same-day appointments.
When she is not working, Dr Katz can be found cooking for her family, staying active in her community, or out cheering on the Cavaliers and Indians with her husband, son, and the family dog, Atticus.