5 Pregnancy and Eating Myths, Debunked
The smart way to eat for two
If you’re pregnant, you’re likely getting all kinds of advice from your friends, your mother, and yes, even well-meaning strangers. Some of it will be helpful, some of it will be annoying, and some of it will probably be downright incorrect. As for what to eat, you'll get more tips than you can fit into nine months of meals—so be sure you know the facts. Here are five food myths to ignore.
Myth: You need a ton more calories when you’re pregnant.
Fact: You actually don’t require any extra calories in the first trimester. Then you need about 350-400 additional calories in the second and third trimesters (more like 500 if you’re carrying twins). Sounds like a lot of extra food, but it adds up quickly. A couple of extra healthy snacks a day such as cheese and whole grain crackers in the afternoon and a small bowl of cereal before bed will do it.
Myth: You have to give up caffeine completely.
Fact: While heavy caffeine intake isn't healthy during pregnancy, you can still safely have some. Experts advise sticking to less than 200 milligrams per day. Think no more than one regular cup of coffee—not the grande size at Starbucks (that can pack more than 300 milligrams).
Myth: Fish isn’t safe during pregnancy.
Fact: An excellent source of protein, fish is a great addition to your diet during pregnancy. Higher-fat fish like salmon also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may boost your baby’s brain development. But since they can also contain contaminants like mercury, you should have no more than two fish meals per week—and stick to low-mercury varieties like shrimp, salmon, catfish, and tilapia. Avoid the following fish completely: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.
Myth: A little bit of wine is okay.
Fact: Heavy drinking can lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which causes permanent physical and developmental abnormalities. But according to the March of Dimes, even moderate drinking can lead to subtle physical and mental damage that could result in learning problems and behavior problems. Nobody knows exactly how much might be okay, so it’s best to just skip it altogether.
Myth: Eating sugar during pregnancy causes gestational diabetes.
Fact: Some factors automatically put you at higher risk for developing gestational diabetes (a kind of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy): being obese, having a family history of diabetes, having a history of delivering large babies, or being older than 35. Eating sugar doesn’t trigger diabetes, but it’s certainly not a great move: Though there's room for some sweets, your nutrient needs are higher during pregnancy, so you should make (almost!) every bite count.
—Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD