By Sandy Hemphill, Contributing Writer
We all know what we should be eating, whether we’re pregnant or not, but we also know that most of us often ignore the “shoulds” and reach for the “I wants” instead. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently teamed up with American Baby Magazine to find out what pregnant women really are eating and offer ways to improve our choices.
Of the 2,300 expectant mothers in the survey, 70% said they improved their diets during pregnancy, but many indicate the hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy can make healthy eating all the time more promise than practice. Here are some highlights:
Produce is a Problem
Pregnant women should be eating five to nine servings a day of fruits and veggies but:
- Only 37% actually do that.
- 63% eat fewer fruits and veggies.
- 12% eat only one serving or less per day.
Two ways to overcome the produce problem:
- Drink it as a cool, refreshing smoothie.
- Splurge on sweets and other cravings only after meeting the daily produce quota.
Comforting a Sweet Tooth for Two
One-third of the surveyed women said they probably over-indulge as a result of the “eating for two” theory and cravings for sweets such as carbs and sweets can be difficult to overcome:
- 36% let pregnancy cravings win most days.
- 84% choose candy, chips, chocolate, cookies, ice cream, and starchy carbs.
How to curb the cravings:
Know that “eating for two” means an average of 400 extra calories a day (one piece of whole wheat bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter, for example) but only during the second and third trimesters. No calorie increases are needed during the first trimester.
Making Food Risky Business
Some foods really do need to be avoided during pregnancy because they are likely to be contaminated with germs that can do harm during pregnancy:
- 80% say they eat risky foods sometimes.
- 48% eat cold deli meats.
- 32% eat undercooked, eggs, fish, or meat.
- 20% eat pre-made deli salads (egg, chicken, potato, for example).
- 7% eat unpasteurized cheese.
- 25% eat risky foods because they don’t think it will hurt anything.
- 47% say a little won’t hurt.
- 36% say a medical professional said it’s OK.
How to take the risk out of eating while pregnant?
Don’t eat foods known to harm a pregnancy and the developing fetus. Just don’t. It’s that easy.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in abundance in seafood and fish feed your unborn baby with important brain-building nutrients but fear of toxic mercury contamination leaves many expectant moms confused about which is safe and which is taboo:
- 89% eat fish once a week or less (8 to 12 ounces a week is recommended; that’s two or three 4-ounce servings).
- 25% of these infrequent fish eaters never eat it.
- 20% don’t know which is safe and which to avoid.
- Many think the beneficial fish are off-limits.
How to Choose?
Think small. Small fish and seafood such as salmon, scallops, shrimp, and trout have short life spans; they don’t live long enough to eat much fish or other marine organisms, which avoids a buildup of toxic mercury levels, and they are rich in omega-3s. The bigger the fish the longer it lives, the more it eats, the more mercury its body stores. Save the big catch for later. Think small during pregnancy.
Pregnancy only lasts nine months but what you eat during these important months can mean a lifetime of robust health for your baby. Make healthy choices on a daily basis but do indulge guilt-free in something just for the fun of it every now and then.
- Dreisbach, Shaun. "What Pregnant Women REALLY Eat." Parents. Meredith Corporation, 2015. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.
- Perez-Escamilla, Rafael. "Fish Facts / Print-and-Go Guide: Fish Facts for Women Who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding." WomensHealth.gov / Healthy Pregnancy. US Department of Health & Human Services, 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 5 Oct. 2015.