What to Eat While Pregnant and What to Avoid: Making the Right Choice

When it comes to what to eat while pregnant, you may be confused by all the choices at your command. How can you decide which is the right food choice for your pregnancy and diet, and which is the food to avoid? It’s true that many foods out there that are touted as healthy are actually anything but good for you.

Additionally, it may surprise you that you can eat some foods on your pregnancy diet that you thought were forbidden. To help make this process easier to understand, four diet scenarios are outlined below with the best choices for your health and your baby’s development.

Scenario #1: Should I eat shrimp while pregnant, or king mackerel?

Believe it or not, you can actually eat seafood when you are pregnant. Certain types of seafood are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to your health as an expectant mother, and offer long-term positive results to your developing infant.

But while seafood offers this incredible health benefit, it also can contain more mercury than is safe to consume during pregnancy. Many women swear off seafood altogether during these nine months, but it is safe to eat—as long as you make the right choices and limit your portion sizes.

In this scenario, shrimp is the better option. Shrimp, along with lobster, crab, flounder, salmon, and other types of seafood, are low in mercury. You can enjoy two 6 ounce servings of these types of fish twice weekly during pregnancy. However, king mackerel, along with several other types of fish, are extremely high in mercury and should not be consumed in any portion size during pregnancy.

Scenario #2: Should I eat lunch meat or grilled chicken?

When it comes to your pregnancy diet, it’s important to eat a serving of protein with every meal.

Protein provides essential amino acids that are so critical to your baby’s neurological development. Protein also helps you feel satiated for longer between meals, which keeps you from overeating during pregnancy.

But while protein is essential, you should know that not all protein is created equal. Lunch meat, also known as deli meat, is full of fillers, sodium, and preservatives that can cause a plethora of issues during pregnancy. In addition, lunch meat can harbor the bacteria listeria, which can cause you to become violently ill and can cause serious pregnancy complications. Lunch meat should be avoided during pregnancy in favor of whole, unprocessed and all-natural sources of protein, such as grilled chicken.

Scenario #3: Should I eat real sugar or artificial sweeteners?
Many pregnant women feel that sugar doesn’t cause real health issues during pregnancy. Because it is considered by many to be “natural,” they assume it cannot cause harm. But the number one cause of weight gain during pregnancy is sugar. Artificial sweeteners are even worse, as they are made from chemicals that cause a variety of troubling and even dangerous problems within not only your body, but also your developing baby’s.

So this is a trick question. The correct answer is that you should choose neither sugar nor artificial sweeteners. Instead, you should opt for all-natural sugar alternatives to curb your sweet tooth. Raw honey, agave syrup, xylitol, and stevia are all acceptable alternatives to sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Scenario #4: Should I drink green tea or coffee?

You can actually consume caffeine during pregnancy. Most experts agree that you can safely consume up to 150mg of caffeine per day without harming yourself or your baby. That’s the equivalent of one cup of coffee or two cups of black tea.

If you are severely addicted to caffeine, you will want to step down your consumption slowly over time. Going cold turkey off caffeine can cause a range of detox symptoms that can make you quite ill and unduly tax the baby. So in this case, you can have either one—the key is really limiting your consumption. Ideally, you’ll want to cut down your consumption until you are caffeine-free for the duration of your pregnancy, but you can have caffeine if you need it.

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