By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Amid the many changes a pregnant woman makes in her lifestyle to nurture and protect her baby, her diet can be among the most important. What a woman eats can directly affect the baby’s health, both positively and negatively.
Danyel Brewer, registered dietitian at Balanced Nutrition of WNY in Amherst, said safe food handling can help prevent listeriosis, a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
The infection can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery.
“Babies’ immune system is compromised so food must be handled and cooked properly,” she said.
One surprise to many women is that deli slices of meat can cause problems because of the frequency of Listeria outbreaks with this type of food. While many sandwich shops lightly toast subs, Brewer said that the meat must be heated to steaming hot to kill Listeria.
A juicy, grilled steak with a pink center may sound enticing, but it should be well done with a minimum internal temperature of 145 F. (Ground beef should be 160 F and poultry 165).
Natalie Robertello, registered dietitian with OB-GYN Associates of Western New York in West Seneca, listed other foods frequently contaminated with Listeria include unwashed produce, raw egg, soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk and other beverages.
She added that raw seafood is something pregnant women should avoid, such as sushi.
“At picnics and potlucks, be careful because you may not know how long that potato salad has sat out,” Robertello said. “You need to have hot things hot and cold things kept cold.”
After two hours at room temperature, bacteria multiply very rapidly.
Allyson Odachowski, registered dietitian and owner of Custom Dietetics in Buffalo, advises pregnant women to limit their consumption of large fish known to be contaminated with mercury, which can harm baby’s developing nervous system. These include large fish like tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel.
Pregnant women must strictly avoid alcohol and tobacco products, as these cross through to the baby.
“Don’t overdo caffeine,” Odachowski said. “One cup of regular coffee a day is okay. Black tea isn’t as caffeinated as coffee.”
What to Eat While Pregnant
Four experts offer their suggestions
• “Protein needs increase during pregnancy. Eat protein at every meal and snack, like an apple with almonds or peanut butter; cheese and crackers; celery and peanut butter. In the morning, eggs are great. Look at vegetarian choices like black, navy and kidney beans and lentils.
• “Fiber is also important. There’s a lot going on with digestion during pregnancy. Make sure everything is moving nicely. Make sure it’s 100 percent whole grain crackers, pasta and bread. Oatmeal or fresh popped popcorn is a good snack.
• “What you drink can really impact your overall diet. Water is the way to go. If you’re not a water drinker, add fresh fruit to it, like cucumber and mint or berries to add flavor.”
Danyel Brewer, registered dietitian at Balanced Nutrition of WNY in Amherst.
• “I’m a big proponent of colorful fruits and vegetables. Try them in all colors. They are packed with vitamins and minerals.
• “Eat four servings of calcium rich foods per day.
• “Eat whole grains, like quinoa, whole grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice.
• “By the second trimester, calorie needs increase, but it’s not by that much. Don’t use the next nine months to eat what you want and become sedentary. Use this time to nourish yourself and your baby.
Erin Burch, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Erin Burch Nutrition in Orchard Park.
• “All pregnant moms should take prenatal vitamins each day. It’s easier to take them at night for moms with morning sickness. It’s similar to a multi-vitamin and will have the daily allowance of folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects.”
Allyson Odachowski, registered dietitian and owner of Custom Dietetics in Buffalo.
• “Protein needs increase throughout pregnancy. Eat 1.1 gram of protein per kilogram of the mother’s body weight, about 75 to 100 grams daily. Eat things like lean beef, chicken, low-mercury fish, pork tenderloin, nuts and seeds, eggs, hummus, beans and legumes, yogurt and dairy, nut butter, quinoa, and couscous. A lot of women don’t eat a lot of protein. Spread it out thorughout the day.”
Natalie Robertello, registered dietitian with OB-GYN Associates of Western New York in West Seneca