Doctor, what can I eat?

You’re pregnant.  Congratulations!  Felicidades!  Conratulaizione!  Gratulacje!  Let’s celebrate!  How do we celebrate good news in any culture?  We eat!  It’s what humans do.  Food is what brings people together. But wait, what do you eat when you’re pregnant?  It is the question that I am asked each and every time when I see pregnant patients and their families.
So what do you eat?  If you are an omnivore, here is what I have for you.  Cook your meats and fishes to 165 degrees Fahrenheit  internally.  Do not eat raw meats such as steak tartare.  Nor do you need to burn your meat to a crisp (unless you like it that way).   Lunch meats and other processed meats such as hotdogs also need to be cooked.   Lunchmeats can be put in the microwave for 30 seconds before eating.  If you’re out and about and a Deli catches  your eye, get a sandwich that is hot.  Stay away from pate and meat spreads that are so popular during the holidays.

Are you a fish eater?  The current recommendations put out by the government are to consume no more than 2 meals of fish per week.  Fishes that are safe to eat are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, Pollack, and catfish.  You should avoid dense fish such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel as they are higher in mercury.   Mercury can cause birth defects.
Let’s talk about dairy products and cheeses.  Dairy products should be pasteurized.  Avoid any raw milk products.  During the winter holidays, eggnog is a popular drink.  Store bought eggnog is pasteurized.  If you’re not sure, read the back label and look for pasteurization.  If it is homemade, you may want to skip the  eggnog.  Hard cheeses are safe to eat.  Soft cheeses such as feta and brie should be avoided.  Once again, if it is bought in a store, read  the back label.  The label should have the word pasteurization in the ingredients.  If it does then it is okay.

Juices should also be pasteurized.  There are a lot of places out there that will freshly squeeze fruit for you.  My recommendation is to not have freshly squeezed juice during pregnancy.  Smoothies also can have unpasteurized fruits in them.  If there is no documentation of (here is that word again) pasteurization, then do not drink it.
Your fresh fruits and vegetables should be rinsed and rinsed well.  Rinsing will remove any unwanted germs.  Raw sprouts to include alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean should be avoided.  Bacteria can get into the sprout seeds and it is impossible to wash out.  Don’t forget to wash your hands and food preparation surfaces before preparing your meals.

I also get many questions on caffeine.  How much coffee can you drink?  Do you drink soda?  Do you drink only bottled water?  There is a lot of debate on the topic of drinks.  Basically, it is okay to consume about 200-300 mg of caffeine per day.  So ….how much coffee can you drink?  If your coffee is brewed, you can have 2-3 cups.  If you like your caffeine in soda, you can have 3 cans.  Some people worry about fluoride or lack of it in bottled water.  It’s okay.  Drink your bottled water. 

Our government puts out a good deal of information on the  internet.  These sites are free.  You don’t have to sign in or register.  Many times there are phone numbers you can call if you have a question.  On our web site, we have the FDA’s booklet on food for pregnancy.  You can also go to “My Pyramid for Moms”  which is located on the FDA website.
Finally, there are those folks who may require a nutritionist due to weight issues or medical issues.  I also recommend a nutritionist evaluation for those who are vegan or vegetarian.  A nutritionist can evaluate the diet to make sure you are getting all the building blocks in your diet for your baby to grow well and strong.
Congratulations!  Enjoy your pregnancy!
Wilkes MD
Womens Health Associates, Stafford VA

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