By Jennifer Ashton, M.D.
“I’m a terrible mother,” one of my patients told me last year. “And I haven’t even had the baby yet!” Confused, I asked her to explain. “It’s about food,” she admitted. “After every bite, I worry about whether or not it’s good for baby. And then I feel worse, because I worry whether it’s good for me. I’m eating for two but don’t want to look and feel like it!”
As a mother of two, I know how she feels. There are few times more joyous in a woman’s life than when she learns she’s pregnant—and few times as anxious as her first meal afterwards, when the unsurety kicks in over what to eat. That’s why I wrote Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting. As an OB/GYN with a full-time practice—not to mention in my roles as Chief Women’s Health Correspondent at ABC News, and as co-host of The Doctors—it’s my mission to give you the most accessible, up-to-date and actionable information to ensure you stay healthy during your pregnancy, and have a beautiful, bouncy bundle of joy at the end. (And I’ve delivered more than 1,500 of them!)
That’s why my book tells you exactly which brand-names to buy at the supermarket, the precise dishes to order at your favorite restaurants and which delicious meals to cook at home, with complete trimester-by-trimester meal plans for a healthy, happy baby—and you. For starters, here are the eight pregnancy myths I hear most—and the fact behind the fiction. Incorporate this easy advice into your daily diet, and you'll look and feel better than ever, pregnant or not! And remember: For the first-ever doctor-recommended plan for baby and you, don’t miss Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting—available now!
Myth #8: You’re Eating for Two
Truth: You’re eating for you.
Yes, you’re the sole supplier of nutrients to your own body as well as that of your growing baby, but that doesn’t mean your caloric needs have doubled. In fact, eating way more than you usually would will just lead to excess weight gain, potentially longer and more complicated labor, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and gestational diabetes—all things that can put your health, and that of your unborn child, at risk.
This is where most moms go wrong. During your first trimester, you should be following a healthy, sensible eating plan that any woman, pregnant or not, could follow. In your second trimester, you’ll add a mere 300 calories to that. And in your third trimester, you’ll add 150 calories more. This exclusive, OB/GYN-designed trimester-by-trimester diet plan, complete with an aisle-by-aisle guide to your favorite brands, and restaurant survival guide, is available in Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting!
Myth #7: You Shouldn’t Drink Coffee
Truth: It’s actually fine in moderation.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has given the green light to having 200 mg or less of caffeine a day. So go ahead and have one or two small, 8 ounce cups of coffee—that’s the equivalent of two short cups or one grande at Starbucks. If you want to be extra cautious, try decaf—you’ll still get a tiny dose of caffeine, plus the placebo effect of sipping on some java.
Myth #6: Spicy Foods Bring on Labor
Truth: Spice it up!
As long as picante flavors aren’t giving you heartburn, it’s 100 percent okay to get spicy. In fact, eating diverse types of food while you’re pregnant will expose your baby to a wide variety of flavors while she’s still in the womb, which experts say may make her less inclined to be a picky eater later on. Another bonus of adding a little heat to your meal? Spicy foods are excellent at clearing your sinuses and helping you breathe better. As for the rumor that these types of dishes can bring on labor? It’s just that—a rumor, and nothing else!
Myth #5: Vegetarian is Always Healthier
Truth: “Vegetarian” doesn’t automatically translate to “better.”
Even if they're veg, some sammies are packed with four different kinds of cheese, a deluge of oil, and sodium-packed veggie patties, stuffed inside a hulking 12” roll, resulting in a half a day’s worth of calories and a cascade of carbs. Limit yourself to one or two types of cheese, endless undressed veggies, and a small bun.
Myth #4: You Have to Give Up Cold Cuts
Truth: Heat ’em up. Then eat em up.
If you are ordering deli meats when you’re pregnant, it’s important to ALWAYS order deli meat sandwiches hot! Roughly 85 percent of illnesses from Listeria, a bacteria that can cause miscarriage, are caused by eating deli meats—and a recent study of three U.S. states showed that a whopping 70 percent of delis tested positive for Listeria. Protect your child and discover exactly which meats to avoid in Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting
Myth #3: You Can’t Prevent a Miscarriage
Fact: Eat right, and you can lower the risk.
Moms-to-be who eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, lean meats, and whole grains are 15 percent more likely to carry their child to term than women who lean toward sugar, fat, and processed foods, according to research from Sahlgrenska Academy University of Gothenberg in Sweden. That's why I write about the perfect balance of those nutrients—along with 50+ delicious recipes that include them—in Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting
Myth #2: Ice Cream is Too Fattening
Fact: The burning question—right? Of course you can eat ice cream!
But first, I want to say that I’m not a big fan of labeling any food “bad” or “good.” In medicine, few things are that simple. Ice cream is no different. In fact, I’d give it an A: it has calcium, protein, fat. It’s only problematic when we eat too much, or add too many toppings, or choose the brands recommended in the book. But if you’re feeling nauseous, or having trouble gaining weight, or, heck, just want a nice dessert after a long day—eat ice cream! Stop by my office. I’ll write you a prescription.
Myth #1: You Can’t Eat Fish
Truth: Dive in!
Just be sure to avoid fish that are high in mercury, as they can cause major problems in your baby’s development, including brain damage and hearing and vision problems. Never eat shark, King mackerel, Tilefish and the other dangerous fish named in the book. As for sushi, there’s a chance that raw fish could contain parasites or bacteria that could lead to harmful infections. Just say no-no to nori! And for the complete list of foods to avoid—and foods to enjoy—for baby and you, don't miss Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting!
Eat This, Not That! When You're Expecting is Available Now! Get Your Copy Today!
More from Dr. Jennifer Ashton
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The Worst Mistake You Can Make When You're Pregnant