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Nutrition During Pregnancy and Avoiding Food Borne Illnesses

Nutrition During Pregnancy and Avoiding Food Borne Illnesses

First and foremost, during pregnancy it’s important to get extra folic acid and iron. Folic acid may help prevent major brain and spinal birth defects known as neural tube defects. It can be hard to get the necessary amount of extra folic acid through diet alone, so your AOA physician will prescribe prenatal vitamins.

Additionally, during pregnancy your body needs extra iron to make a substance in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your organs and your brain. A pregnant woman needs about double the amount of iron of a woman who is not pregnant. While you can get much of the extra iron you need by eating iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, fish, and beans, the extra iron in your prenatal vitamins will help ensure you get as much as you need for you and your baby.

In general, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; protein in the form of lean meat and fish, beans, eggs, soy products, and nuts and seeds; and dairy in the form of milk, cheese and yogurt. The calcium in the dairy will help build your baby’s bones and teeth. Vitamin D in conjunction with calcium helps strengthen bones, in addition to being important for skin health and eyesight.

Foods to Avoid

While food poisoning during pregnancy can cause problems for mothers and their babies, there are some fairly straightforward precautions that you can take to help prevent food borne illness. Some precautions are a matter of applying an extra level of common sense, while others may not be so obvious.

While fish is an excellent source of protein and essential fats, certain kinds of fish have higher levels of mercury (a toxic metal) than others. During pregnancy, stick with shrimp, salmon, catfish and pollock. Do not eat shark, swordfish, mackerel or tilefish. It is also recommended that you not eat more than 6 oz. of tuna a week during pregnancy.

Simple Steps to Prevent Food Poisoning

  • Wash your hands before handling food.
  • Wash all of your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before handling or preparing.
  • Clean all surfaces in your kitchen thoroughly before preparing food: counter tops, utensils, cutting boards, etc.
  • Avoid all raw or undercooked meat, eggs, and seafood. Don’t eat sushi made with raw fish, steak tartar, drinks or food made with raw eggs.

Eat a well-rounded diet, take your pre-natal vitamins, wash your hands often, wash all fruits and vegetables, cook meat appropriately and keep in mind the short list of foods to avoid. Take an extra level of precaution in keeping your food preparation areas clean, and ask your AOA physician if you have any specific food-related concerns.

Learn more about nutrition and avoiding food-borne illness in pregnancy: