Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pregnancy nutrition: Foods to avoid

Eating healthy foods is only part of pregnancy nutrition. It's equally important to avoid harmful foods. You want what's best for your baby. That's why you slice fruit on your fortified breakfast cereal, sneak extra veggies into your favorite recipes and eat yogurt for dessert. But did you know that what you don't eat and drink may be just as important as what you do? Start with the basics. Knowing what to avoid can help you make the healthiest choices for you and your baby. Seafood Seafood can be a great source of protein and iron, and the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can help promote your baby's brain development. However, some fish and shellfish contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. Too much mercury may damage your baby's developing nervous system. The bigger and older the fish, the more mercury it may contain. Don't eat:
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish

So what's safe? Some types of seafood contain little mercury. According to the most recent guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can safely eat up to 12 ounces a week (two average meals) of:

  • Shrimp
  • Canned light tuna (Limit albacore tuna and tuna steak to no more than 6 ounces a week.)
  • Salmon
  • Pollock
  • Catfish

In July 2006, a popular consumer magazine raised questions about the safety of any type of canned tuna for pregnant women. The FDA continues to support the safety of up to 12 ounces a week of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, including canned light tuna.

To avoid ingesting harmful bacteria or viruses, avoid raw fish and shellfish — especially oysters and clams — and anything caught in polluted water. Refrigerated smoked seafood is also off limits, unless it's an ingredient in a casserole or other cooked dish.

When you cook fish, use the 10-minute rule. Measure the fish at its thickest part and cook for 10 minutes per inch at 450 F. Boil shellfish — such as clams, oysters and shrimp — for four to six minutes. Meat and poultry During pregnancy, changes in your metabolism and circulation may increase the risk of bacterial food poisoning. Your reaction may be more severe than if you weren't pregnant. Rarely, your baby may get sick, too. To prevent food-borne illness, fully cook all meats and poultry before eating. Look for the juices to run clear, but use a meat thermometer to make sure. Skip medium or rare burgers and sausages. The Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria commonly found on the surface of meat may be distributed throughout the whole product during the grinding process. Unless you cook ground meat to an internal temperature of 160 F, you may not raise its internal temperature enough to kill E. coli. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the meat is done. Be careful with hot dogs and deli meats, too. These are sources of a rare but potentially serious food-borne illness known as listeriosis. Cook hot dogs and heat deli meats until they're steaming hot — or avoid them completely. Dairy products Dairy products such as skim milk, mozzarella cheese and cottage cheese can be a healthy part of your diet. But anything containing unpasteurized milk is a no-no. These products may lead to food-borne illness. Unless these soft cheeses are clearly labeled as being made with pasteurized milk, don't eat:
  • Brie
  • Feta
  • Camembert
  • Blue-veined cheeses, such as Roquefort
  • Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco, queso de hoja, queso de crema and asadero
Caffeine During pregnancy, moderate caffeine intake — 200 milligrams or less a day, about the amount in two cups of coffee — seems to have no adverse effects. But that doesn't mean caffeine is free of risks. Caffeine can cross the placenta and affect your baby's heart rate and breathing. Heavy caffeine intake — 500 milligrams or more a day, about the amount in five cups of coffee — may lower your baby's birth weight and head circumference. Because of the unknowns, your health care provider may recommend limiting caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day. Herbal tea Although herbal tea may be soothing, avoid it unless your health care provider says it's OK. Large amounts of some herbal teas — including peppermint and red raspberry leaf — may cause contractions and increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm labor. Alcohol One drink isn't likely to hurt your baby — but no level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy. The safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely. Consider the risks. Mothers who drink alcohol have a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Excessive alcohol consumption may result in fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause facial deformities, heart problems, low birth weight and mental retardation. Even moderate drinking can impact your baby's brain development. If you think you might need help to stop drinking alcohol, talk with your health care provider. Source: MayoClinic.com