Pregnancy Nutrition

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Eating a nutritious diet is one of the most important things you can do to get your baby off to a good start in life. The sooner you start eating a healthy diet, the better. Healthy eating improves your general health, can make your labor easier and establishes the building blocks for your baby, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Just as you should eat certain foods, it’s just as important to avoid some foods that could be harmful to your baby.

Nutritious Foods

Follow the basic nutrition principles of healthy eating when you are pregnant. Eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Some nutrients become especially important when you are pregnant. You need plenty of calcium. You can get this by eating yogurt, cheese and salmon and by drinking milk and fortified juice. You also need protein. You can get that by eating chicken breast, fish, cottage cheese, peanut butter and eggs. Eat beef for the iron you need.

Preventing Birth Defects

Make sure to eat plenty of foods that contain folic acid to prevent neural tube defects that lead to brain and spinal cord abnormalities, such as spina bifida. Good sources of folic acid are fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, dried beans, peas and citrus fruits. So, eat your spinach. Asparagus and peanuts are good choices, too.

Seafood to Avoid

Seafood that contains omega-3 fatty acid is great for your baby’s brain development. But, certain fish and shellfish contains too much mercury to make it safe for your baby’s nervous system development, according to MayoClinic.com. Generally, the bigger the fish, the more mercury it potentially contains. The worst seafood choices for pregnant women are swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. Also, avoid sushi, raw oysters and clams and smoked seafood.

Other Foods to Avoid

Before eating meat and poultry, make sure the juices run clear. Avoid processed meats, such as hot dogs, and deli meats. They could be sources of the food-borne illness, listeriosis. Stay away from refrigerated pate and meat spreads, but you can eat the canned versions. Don’t eat foods that contain raw eggs or partially cooked eggs to avoid the salmonella bacteria. Make sure the dairy products you eat do not contain unpasteurized milk. Read the labels on cheeses, such as brie, feta, Camembert, blue cheese and Mexican cheese dips. The label should read that the products were made with pasteurized milk.

Harmful Beverages

Avoid alcohol when you are pregnant. No level of alcohol is safe for your baby. Alcohol could lead to miscarriage and stillbirth or your baby being born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Ask your doctor about herbal tea. Large amounts of some herbal teas can cause contractions, according to MayoClinic.com. You don’t have to eliminate caffeine completely, but you should limit how much you drink to no more than 12 oz. daily. Too much caffeine could slow growth.

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