Dr. Jennifer Ashton, the Chief Women’s Health Correspondent at ABC News, has delivered 1,500 happy, healthy babies and now she’s here to help yours, compliments of her new book, Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting. In this Q+A, she talks about the rules of eating out—and the worst mistake you can make if you’re pregnant.
Q: Doctor—I just found out I’m pregnant! Do I have to eat differently, like, immediately?
Dr. Ashton: Well, I tell every woman to “live like you’re pregnant.” Meaning, you should approach every meal asking three essential questions: Where’s my protein? Where’s my fiber? And where’s my healthy fat?
Q: That’s it? Just Three?
Dr. Ashton: Well, four. If you’re at a restaurant, I’d add: Do I need this carb? Like, Do I really need this carb?
Q: But I love carbs!
Dr. Ashton: I know you really want that carb. But limiting your carb intake is the easiest way to control your weight during pregnancy. Your goal should be to find a meal that consists mainly of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
Q: And no bread?
Dr. Ashton: You can eat any of the name-brand breads named in the book! But I limit carbs often and never leave hungry. One time, I ordered a meatball sub without the bread. I still got the delicious meatballs, and healthy tomato sauce, but without the bun. It’s even a joke in my family—we have a catchphrase: “Just balls.”
Q: Ha! Ew. Any other tricks besides “just balls”?
Dr. Ashton: Eat before you eat. Before you hit the restaurant for dinner, order an app like a broth-based soup. Even an apple can reduce your total calorie intake per meal by up to 20 percent, according to one study out of Penn State.
Q: And you mentioned meatballs—I can eat meat?
Dr. Ashton: If it’s fully cooked, yes. Just avoid bacon, unless it’s nitrate free.
Q: So burgers?
Dr. Ashton: Good.
Q: Even cheeseburgers?
Dr. Ashton: Cheeseburgers are fine if you indulge without going crazy. For example, a McDonald’s Cheeseburger with a small French Fries has 530 calories and 810 mg of sodium. In comparison, a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 780 calories and 1,310 mg sodium. The worst mistake you can make while pregnant is going overboard.
Q: I thought you’d say the worst mistake I could make was eating at McDonald’s.
Dr. Ashton: No, in fact, in the book, you’ll learn what to order at tons of your favorite restaurants. It’s filled with practical advice. You shouldn’t look at the next nine months as being filled with limitations. You should look at them as an opportunity.
Q: Never thought about it like that. It’s hard to get any good advice because my OB/GYN, who I love, is not a nutritionist.
Dr. Ashton: Nutrition isn’t part of most doctor’s formal training, believe it or not—that’s why, after becoming an OB/GYN, I got my Master’s in Nutrition at Columbia and am Board-certified in Obesity medicine. My philosophy is for my patients to take control over what you can control. And when you lose control, enjoy an ice cream. Just choose one of the brands approved in Eat This, Not That! When You’re Expecting! I admit I not only researched their nutritionals, but tried some, too!