Make Safe Food Choices during Pregnancy

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March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.

Fish Carefully

Fish contains protein, healthy fat and many vitamins and minerals. During pregnancy, however, there are some types of fish that women should avoid.

While fish provides important nutrients, some varieties contain higher levels of mercury, which could be harmful to unborn babies and young children. Pregnant women should avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. But many other types of fish can be eaten safely during pregnancy: shellfish, canned light tuna, farm-raised fish including salmon or catfish, or smaller ocean fish such as cod or flatfish. Albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than light tuna so limit your intake to 6 ounces a week.

As a general rule, you can safely eat 12 ounces of cooked fish per week.

Listeria Bacteria Risks and Foods to Avoid

The Dietary Guidelines recommend that pregnant women avoid drinking unpasteurized (raw) juice or milk. The guidelines also recommend avoiding foods made from unpasteurized milk, including some soft cheeses such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, Brie, Camembert and blue-veined cheese.

To kill the listeria bacteria which causes listeriosis, reheat deli and luncheon meats and hot dogs to steaming hot. Also, avoid eating raw sprouts which may also carry the bacteria.

Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

Have you ever wondered if non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin and sucralose are safe to consume during pregnancy?

Current research shows no reason to avoid foods and beverages with these sweeteners. The only concern is that while consuming calorie-free soft drinks and candies, you may be missing out on more nutritious foods and beverages that are better choices for mothers-to-be such as milk, juice and water.

Pregnant women with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria, or PKU, should avoid foods and beverages sweetened with aspartame because their bodies cannot break down phenylalanine, the amino acid aspartame contains.

If you have PKU or carry the gene, consult a doctor and a registered dietitian nutritionist for health and nutrition advice.

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