Do you think it’s free for all, and that you should indulge your cravings?

Sorry.

Party is over. (Or is the party just starting?)

You’re not eating for two. You’re rather eating twice as healthy. Welcome to pregnancy, mama!

 

What’s the dealy-o?

“But I am growing a human being in there!”
We hear you. Yes (and Congrats!). But really, that doesn’t mean you need a lot more energy (aka calories).
  •    1st trimester: no extra food needed
  •    2nd and 3rd trimester: the equivalent of one more snack per day. That isn’t exactly eating for two.
The harsh truth is that this baby is gonna suck all the nutrients he needs out of you. That is where quality trumps quantity!

 

So rather than going hard core on quantity, maybe it’s time to go BIG on quality.

 

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It’s true that nutrient requirements go up with pregnancy. For example, the needs of a woman aged between 19 and 50 years old increase for iron (up 50%, from 18 to 27 mg/d), folate (up 50%, from 400 to 600 ug/d) and vitamin B12 (up 8% from 2.4 to 2.6 ug/d). The healthy plate and a prenatal multivitamin is the way to go to ensure you and baby have everything you need without having to count and calculate nutrients.

 

Check your prenatal multivitamin. It should contain 0.4mg of folic acid, and iron, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D. It might be a good idea to take your prenatal with your meal so it doesn’t sit on an empty stomach and cause discomfort. Read more about how to choose your prenatal multivitamin here (including a free chart of the most popular prenatals and what they contain – easy comparison to make the best choice!).

 

The healthy plate + a prenatal multivitamin ensure you have proper nutrition for you and baby. That is how you eat for two!

4 ideas (+ 1 bonus) we often hear

 

#1: No alcohol when trying to get pregnant + while being pregnant

Well that one is safe to follow. Alcohol does pass in the placenta and reaches the baby. We don’t know if there is a “safe” amount to drink during pregnancy, and quite frankly who would want to test it? A mother drinking while being pregnant might give birth to a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which is a serious health condition that cannot be reverse. It can affect emotional, physical or mental health of the baby with dramatic consequences. The thing is we don’t know how much drinking will cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorder so better to play it safe: avoid all type of alcohol at all time during pregnancy.

#2 : No caffeine during pregnancy

Good news, you can actually enjoy your daily cup of coffee while pregnant. Just don’t exaggerate. The recommended maximum daily caffeine is 300 mg. That means 2 small (8oz) cups of coffee. But that includes all sources of caffeine (not just found in coffee): coffee, tea, yerba mate, chocolate, pop and other caffeinated beverages like guarana-containing beverages and energy drinks.

If you are looking for alternatives and turn yourself to decaf or non-caffeinated beverages, here is what you need to know about herbal teas:
  • Limit to 2 cups a day: citrus peel, linden flower, ginger, lemon balm, orange peel, rose hip
  • Avoid chamomile
  • Avoid teas containing aloe, coltsfoot, juniper berry, pennyroyal, buckthorn bark, comfrey, labrador tea, sassafras, duck root, lobelia and senna leaves.

 

#3: No fish during pregnancy

This one has bad press because of mercury content and environmental concerns. Both are fair, but there are ways around it! We actual recommend to eat fatty fish like salmon twice a week. It provides omega 3 fats, vitamin D and many other important nutrients. The problem is that large fish live longer, and accumulates contaminants such as mercury from the prey they eat over time.

  • Avoid: Fresh/frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin, and orange roughy
  • Caution with species you fish yourself: Check with your local authorities for any advisory for your fishing area.
  • Limit canned albacore and canned white tuna: limit to 2 cans of 170g per week.
  • Enjoy freely and often: Salmon, trout, herring, haddock, canned light tuna (skipjack, yellowfin, tongol), pollock (Boston bluefish), sole, flounder, anchovy, char, hake, mullet, smelt, Atlantic mackerel and lake white fish:  They provide omega 3 and contain less contaminants/mercury

 

We encourage you to select fish species that are not endangered. Visit these Greenpeace websites and refer to their “Red List” and canned tuna sustainability ranking to make wise choices. We recognized that it can be challenging to select variety that are not endangered and not too contaminated, while being affordable, tasty and available at your grocery store. Try your best! Being informed is a first good step. What is the criteria you value the most at this time? Select your fish based on that.

 

But the easiest way to get all the good without the bad: vary your menus! Eat different types of fish and seafood. Keep it interesting and tasty while you eat for two!

 

Not a fan of fish even after trying different varieties, recipes and cooking methods? Consider an omega-3 supplement. Fatty fish are packed with omega 3, and supplements are often made of fish oil. It will ensure that you and growing baby get plenty of these healthy fats so important for brain development and overall health. Sandwich the pill in between bites of your meal otherwise you will get fish burps and that is rather unpleasant!

 

#4: You should go all organic
There is no recommendation to eat organic during pregnancy, and the benefits of eating lots of fruits and veggies will surpass the risks of consuming pesticides if choosing non-organic produces. Once again, think about what is most important for you and your family, considering that it might be more expensive and not as available where you live.

 

BONUS: A side note on vitamin A
Too much of vitamin A is not a good idea during pregnancy as it can cause malformations to your baby. Avoid cod liver oil supplements, and pay attention to other medications you are taking that can be a source of vitamin A (like some acne treatment drugs). The maximum daily amount is 3,000 micrograms (or 10,000 IU RAE for all types of vitamin A), that is combining food and supplements. Check your prenatal multivitamin, and any other multivitamin and supplements you take.  Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian in doubt.

 

No alcohol + a healthy plate most of the time. Variety is key when you eat for two.

 

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And here are some less known truths

 

Among the many (many!) changes in your body during pregnancy, your immune system is taking a hit! Your are more susceptible to catching a cold… but also to suffer form food poisoning. That sounds horrible, right? It can be indeed. Symptom can appear hours or weeks after consumption of contaminated food, and lead to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and in rare cases serious complications to you and your baby. Some bacteria will cross the placenta and directly affect your baby, in some cases causing miscarriage.

 

Not to alarm you but again, better be aware and make informed decisions. It is not to say that the following food items will AUTOMATICALLY make you ill, but the risk is higher that they might contain harmful bacteria, virus or parasites. Couple that to your immune system not functioning as normal and you (and baby) are simply at higher risk. One more reason to be wiser when you eat for two.

 

Risks are present when handling, storing and cooking food.

 

Foods to avoid include:
  • raw or undercooked meat like sushi, smoked salmon, tartare
  • deli meat and meat pâtés, unless they are reheated
  • raw eggs or runny yolk (and products containing raw eggs like salad dressing)
  • raw (pasteurized or not) soft, semi-soft or blue-veined cheeses
  • raw unpasteurized dairy products and juices
  • sprouts
Avoid common practices that pose problems:
  • wash your hands, your kitchen counters and sink often
  • brush fruits and veggies before eating (even if you peel them). Think about where they grow, what is the soil fertilized with, and who touched them before you.
  • defrost your meat in the fridge over night (not on the counter top). You can also use a water bath to speed up the process, and cook it right away.
  • wash knives and cutting boards between tasks, specifically making sure to avoid cross contamination between raw and cooked items.
  • store leftovers in servings size and place in the fridge/freezer to cool off faster (don’t leave them on the counter).
  • buffets and pot luck meals: ensure that food is not left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Use ice tray or burners to keep an appropriate temperature.

 

Now that you know the risks in the kitchen, you can decide if the sushi you dream of eating is worth it. In the end, each pregnant women will deal with the risk she is ready to take (and it is not for us to judge).

Know what are the risks when storing, handling and cooking food so you can make informed decisions when you eat for two.

 

References

 

Dietary reference intake

 

 

Health Canada – Guide to pregnancy

 

 

Fish: endangered species

 

 

Food safety during pregnancy

 

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