There are few times more joyous in a woman’s life than when she learns she’s pregnant—and few times as anxious as your first meal afterwards, when the anxiety kicks in over what to eat for baby—and you. 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 deliver the most accessible, up-to-date and actionable information to ensure you stay healthy during your pregnancy, and deliver a beautiful, bouncy bundle of joy at the end. (And I’ve delivered more than 1,500 of them!)
Part of that means debunking the many nutrition myths that pop up when you’re pregnant. Here are the eight I hear the most—and the fact behind the fiction. And 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: 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.
In short: Having a passenger along for the ride doesn’t mean you need extra trips to the fueling station. 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 (that’s as simple as having an extra container of yogurt, a handful of nuts, and an apple). And in your third trimester, you’ll add 150 calories more. A complete trimester-by-trimester diet plan is in the book, complete with an aisle-by-aisle guide to your favorite brands, and restaurant survival guide.
Myth: 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: 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: Vegetarian is Healthier
Truth: “Vegetarian” doesn’t automatically translate to “healthy.”
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. And 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. Find out how to avoid this dangerous bacteria in Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting.
Myth: You Have to Give Up Cold Cuts
Truth: Heat ’em up. Then eat em up.
Some women opt to give up deli meats altogether during pregnancy, as they can harbor invisible, odorless bacteria like Listeria, which can cause miscarriage. If you just can’t quit them, that’s okay—just always cook them and eat ’em while they’re piping hot.
Myth: 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. For the full diet plan, don’t miss Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting.
Myth: 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 . 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: You Can’t Eat Fish
Truth: Dive in! Just never eat shark, King mackerel, Tilefish, Swordfish or white albacore tuna.
They’re high in mercury and can cause major problems in your baby’s development, including brain damage and hearing and vision problems. As for sushi, unfortunately, you have to say no-no to nori. No exceptions, no cheating, no sushi. There’s a chance that raw fish could contain parasites or bacteria that could lead to harmful infections. For a complete survival guide to your favorite restaurants, don’t miss Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting.