Four Off-Limit Foods for New Moms-to-Be

Meals should be a pleasure during pregnancy, not a problem. But certain foods can be risky when you’re eating for two. For your baby’s safety, steer clear of the following foods when expecting, and always ask your doctor if you have any questions on what you should -- and shouldn’t -- eat .

Fish high in mercury. Eating fish is an important part of your pregnancy diet because much of it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are super nutrients for your new baby’s brain development. But not every kind of fish is recommended. Some larger ones contain too much mercury, which can affect your baby’s nervous system. Steer clear of shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish. And limit safer varieties of fish to 12 ounces a week.

Some raw and undercooked foods. The risk with anything raw is that you may contract a case of food poisoning. While it’s rare for this illness to affect your new baby, it’s not pleasant to deal with, whether you’re pregnant or not. To be on the safe side, cook eggs, seafood, shellfish, meat, and chicken fully. Skip raw fish and shellfish, smoked fish, refrigerated pate, and raw sprouts like radish, mung bean, and alfalfa.

Unpasteurized cheese, milk, and juice. Unpasteurized products are off the menu when you’re expecting. Read labels carefully to be sure all milk and juice you drink has been pasteurized and the cheese you consume (especially soft varieties like Brie,  Camembert, and goat cheese,) is made with pasteurized, not raw, milk.

Deli meats. Listeriosis, a rather serious foodborne illness, is the concern for this category. It’s a good idea to avoid deli meats and hot dogs anyway as they aren’t a healthy choice (many are high in sodium). If you do indulge in deli items during pregnancy, be sure to heat all meats and franks until they are steaming.

Remember to practice good hygiene in the kitchen -- it’s smart whether you’re having a baby or not. Always wash your hands before preparing food or eating a meal, and wash produce well under running water, using a brush to scrub the outer layer of tough-skinned fruits and veggies. Knowing your diet is safe for your new baby will put any expectant mom at ease. Happy eating!

Facts about Pregnancy Cravings

For many women around the world, having a baby often comes with an array of new eating habits and cravings, from feasting on a tray of brownies to dipping pickles in curry. But what are pregnancy cravings exactly? Here’s a look at some common cravings and ways to satisfy them without derailing your pregnancy diet or harming your baby.

Understanding pregnancy cravings

You want an entire bag of chips, or an ice cream sundae, and you want it now. Strong urges like these are common among new moms during pregnancy, and no one is completely certain why they occur. Some experts believe that pregnancy cravings happen as a result of your body asking for the nutrients it needs. So desires for ice cream sundaes or a tray of brownies could be a signal that your body needs more calcium or fat

Top cravings from around the world

Most food cravings fall into the sweet, spicy, salty, or sour category, and include foods like ice cream, pickles, soda, lemon, tomatoes, and chocolate.

Craving caveat

Keep in mind that while many pregnancy cravings can be very strong, oftentimes your body doesn’t need the specific food you’re craving, just something in that food. And filling up on unhealthy foods can lead to excessive weight gain during pregnancy and nutritional deficiencies for both mom and baby.

How to satisfy your craving

So how do you satisfy a pregnancy craving without doing any damage to your overall health or the health of your new baby? Learn to understand your cravings and satisfy them by eating small amounts of what you desire without overdoing it, or by choosing something similar but  more healthful. That hankering for a vanilla milkshake could just be your body’s desire for calcium and can be sated by a cup of low-fat yogurt, while some crunchy carrots may satisfy a potato chip craving (or maybe not). 

And if a healthy alternative doesn’t do the job? Take your mind off of your craving by going for a walk, spending time with another new mom to-be, or calling a friend to talk about your day.

Six Pregnancy Super Foods

You know you have to eat well when expecting -- this helps help ensure a healthy pregnancy and gives your baby’s development a boost. But which foods pack the biggest nutritional punch? And how can you easily include them in your roster of meals, mini-meals, and snacks? Here, a handy guide to super foods and healthy eating!

Eggs Protein is crucial for your new baby’s growth during the second and third trimesters, and eggs are an easy and inexpensive way to get a good dose. Hardboiled eggs make for a fast snack, while an over-easy egg on top of rice or stir-fry veggies can give the meal a protein boost.

Beans Fiber-full, protein-rich, and low in calories -- what’s not to love about beans? Whether you choose black, pinto, navy, or chickpeas, they’ll taste great in a quesadilla or sprinkled on salads and pasta dishes.

Sweet potatoes Regular potatoes are fine, but for some added vitamins A and C (which helps you absorb iron and helps ensure healthy gums for you and your new baby) pick the dark orange variety. Bake a couple until they are soft and top with low-fat Greek yogurt and chives, or slice sweet potatoes into edges and roast them in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.

Salmon This fish delivers a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids , which can give your new baby’s developing brain a boost. Expectant new moms can enjoy 12 ounces of fish a week, so consider low- and no-mercury varieties like salmon, trout, and sardines. If cooking fresh fish doesn't appeal to you, opt for the canned varieties (try salmon salad on rye).

Nuts The healthy fats found in nuts can help foster your new baby’s brain development; walnuts, with their omega-3s , are particularly potent. Eat them whole or spread walnut butter on whole-wheat toast or slices of pear.

Low-fat dairy Calcium, protein, and vitamin D can be found in dairy aisle products, so stock up on skim milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Greek yogurt is an especially good pick because of the extra protein it offers.

Don’t be concerned if your pregnancy diet isn’t perfect all the time. Just try to work in a couple of these picks each day to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.

Smart Pregnancy Snacks for New Moms

Eating a wholesome, balanced diet is an important part of preparing for a new baby. And nutritious, delicious snacks should be a staple throughout the day. Experts say that eating small amounts of healthy foods can help prevent common complaints like queasiness and heartburn . Plus, reaching for the right kinds of snacks helps ensure that your new baby is getting enough of the nutrients for proper development. Consuming enough calcium, protein, healthy fat, vitamins, and minerals should be a priority for both your meals and snacks. Here are some good snack choices for new moms-to-be:

Snack pick #1: Yogurt

Calcium is essential for the development of your little one’s bones and teeth. Try sprinkling plain low-fat yogurt with some fresh fruit for a sweet but healthy snack. If you can’t do dairy, you can get the calcium you need from calcium-fortified soy yogurt. These snacks will also boost your protein intake for the day, which helps to keep you sated until your next mommy mini-meal.

Snack pick #2: Peanut butter

Although moms-to-be need lots of protein throughout pregnancy, this nutrient is especially crucial in expectant moms’ diets during the second and third trimesters. The amino acids that make up protein are essential for building new cells in your babyduring this time of peak growth. Peanut butter is a tasty, convenient choice, whether you spread it on a slice of whole wheat bread, a rice cracker, a celery stick, or apple slices. Other good protein-rich snacks include leftover roast chicken, soy nuts, and black bean dip on tortilla chips.

Snack pick #3: Oranges

Having a baby is a major accomplishment, and you need to make sure your body stays strong throughout your pregnancy. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, staving off anemia, keeping your energy up, and ensuring a healthy birth weight for your new baby. Citrus fruit is a great source of vitamin C , but other star snacks include yellow bell pepper slices, kiwi, kale chips, dried papaya, and strawberries.

Planning ahead and stocking up on healthy snack foods helps ensure that a nutritious choice is always within arm’s reach. Think of your snacks as mini-meals; they should be just as nutrient-rich as your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s okay to indulge an unhealthy craving once in a while, but remember that the good choices you make now can help your new baby grow and thrive.

Stress-Free Pregnancy Tips

Having a baby is incredibly exciting -- but can also be stressful at times. Between preparing for your baby, arranging the nursery, scheduling checkups, and dealing with your changing body, you've got a lot to handle! The following tactics can help keep anxieties at bay, which will help you -- and your new baby -- stay happy and healthy. 

Stress-free pregnancy tip #1: Get moving. Exercise not only maintains fitness -- it also releases tension. Swimming and walking are great, low impact choices for workouts, and deep-breathing exercise such as in prenatal yoga can be extra soothing. Just be sure to ask your doctor before starting a new physical activity.

Stress-free pregnancy tip #2: Snack wisely. We all know that whatever you eat during pregnancy, your new baby eats, too. But there’s another reason to be mindful when you chow down: A well-balanced diet will help provide the physical and mental energy to help your body power through the pregnancy while keeping you focused.

Stress-free pregnancy tip #3: Catch some Z’s. There’s a reason getting extra sleep is the pregnancy tip that you hear over and over again. While your body is working overtime, you and your baby need all the rest you can get. Getting to bed early means you’ll snooze enough to keep your calm the next day.

Stress-free pregnancy tip #4: Just relax. Whether you  curl up with a good book, meditate, or enjoy a warm bath, make sure you fit in some calming activities. Once you welcome your baby home, it’ll be tough to find the time for these!

Stress-free pregnancy tip #5: Avoid information overload. Taking a pregnancy education class is crucial for knowing what to expect when you’re having a baby. However, it’s easy to get caught up listening to other people’s horror stories and spending hours on the Internet reading about what could (but probably won’t) go wrong. Instead of delving into the gloomy, pay attention to your own body and look to your doctor for reassurance and advice.

Preparing for a baby can be a lot of work, so don’t hesitate to ask someone for help, to take some pressure off you. A happy, healthy mom-to-be is part of the secret to a happy, healthy pregnancy!