Eating the right food and getting proper nutrition is essential when you're pregnant. Remember, you're eating for two this time, so it's important you're mindful of everything that goes into your system. You're making all the decisions for the baby, so make sure they're the right ones. But eating healthy doesn't need to be boring. Knowing how to replace food that's off-limits with smart, not to mention tasty, choices can mean the difference between a dull drab meal and something you and your child will both benefit from, and enjoy to boot. To help you plan your meals, here are some foods you need to watch out for, and their safer replacements.
What you want: Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, feta, and goat cheese
Why you should pass: Unpasteurized cheese could potentially contain listeria, a bacteria that causes Listeriosis, a life-threatening disease. Pregnant mothers, the elderly, and AIDS patients are most at risk for Listeria infection.
What you should have instead: Soft cheeses like Havarti, Port Salut, ricotta salata, and some types of Brie. Fresh cheeses like cream cheese, fresh mozzarella, cottage cheese, and mascarpone. Just make sure to check the label.
What you want: Cold cuts and deli meat
Why you should pass: If you're getting them from a deli where they've been sitting in their refrigerated cases, usually exposed, you're at risk of contracting harmful bacteria that might be lurking there.
What you should have instead: If they're packaged well in a vacuum-sealed container, it shouldn't be a problem. Just avoid getting it straight from the counter. If you really must, make sure they heat the meat properly to kill any bacteria before ingesting it.
What you want: High-mercury fish like tuna steaks, saltwater bass, king mackerel, swordfish, or grouper
Why you should pass: Mercury is extremely harmful to a developing baby's nervous system.
What you should have instead: Fish that contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, herring, and sardines. Research has found that fatty acids like DHA help develop a baby's brain. Other safe seafood are shrimp, haddock, catfish, tilapia, scallops, and cod. All cooked, of course.
What you want: Sushi
Why you should pass: Aside from the high mercury levels found in some sushi, you could also potentially contract a parasite, which is harder to treat when you're pregnant. The parasite could also take nutrients from your baby.
What you should have instead: Cooked sushi rolls made with eel, crab rolls, California rolls, or veggie rolls made with cucumber. Various tempuras (battered and fried) are also good and tasty alternatives.
What you want: Raw or runny eggs
Why you should pass: You could run the risk of contracting salmonella if you ingest raw yolk. Remember, your immune system is weaker when you're pregnant. If you get sick, the dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea can affect fetal growth and could lead to preterm labor.
What you should have instead: Have your eggs but make sure that they are cooked all the way through. Eggs are a good source of protein and choline.
What you want: Coffee, and more than one cup!
Why you should pass: Having two to three cups of a caffeinated drink daily can raise risk of miscarriage. It's also linked to preterm delivery and low birth weight.
What you should have instead: Decaf coffee or keep it under a cup a day.
What you want: Saccharine, a.k.a. artificial sweeteners like Equal or NutraSweet
Why you should pass: Aside from the fact that you probably shouldn't be taking anything labeled "artificial," saccharine can also cross placenta and be absorbed into the baby's bloodstream.
What you should have instead: Use honey, maple syrup, or agave to naturally sweeten your drinks or food.
What you want: Herbal teas like chamomile and hibiscus
Why you should pass: Some research has shown that certain herbal teas can cause problems like preterm labor so it's best to stay away from them. Other teas that may not be safe are comfrey and sassafras.
What you should have instead: Ginger tea, peppermint tea, and rooibos tea are all beneficial teas for pregnant women.
What you want: Alcohol
Why you should pass: Increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, and can result in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a lifelong condition that results in poor growth, abnormality, and damage to the central nervous system.
What you should have instead: "Virgin" or non-alcoholic versions of your favorite drinks. Ginger beer (contains no alcohol) is a delicious substitute as well.