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Monday, September 1, 2008

Pregnancy nutrition Tips : 6 Foods to avoid

You want what's best for your baby. That's why you add sliced fruit to your fortified breakfast cereal, sneak extra veggies into your favorite recipes and eat yogurt for dessert. But when it comes to pregnancy nutrition, did you know that what you don't eat and drink may be just as important as what you do?

Start with the basics. Knowing what to avoid can help you make the healthiest choices for you and your baby.

1. Seafood

Seafood can be a great source of protein and iron, and the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can help promote your baby's brain development. In fact, a British study suggests that skimping on seafood during pregnancy may contribute to poor verbal skills, behavioral problems and other developmental issues during childhood. However, some fish and shellfish contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. Too much mercury may damage your baby's developing nervous system.

The bigger and older the fish, the more mercury it may contain. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encourages pregnant women to avoid:
a. Swordfish
b. Shark
c. King mackerel
d. Tilefish

So what's safe? Some types of seafood contain little mercury. Although concerns have been raised about the level of mercury in any type of canned tuna, the FDA says you can safely eat up to 12 ounces a week (two average meals) of:

a. Shrimp
b. Canned light tuna (Max albacore tuna and tuna steak no more than 6 ounces a week)
c. Salmon
d. Pollock
e. Catfish

To avoid ingesting harmful bacteria or viruses, avoid raw fish and shellfish — especially oysters and clams — and anything caught in polluted water. Refrigerated smoked seafood is also off-limits, unless it's an ingredient in a casserole or other cooked dish.

Most fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F. The fish is done when it separates into flakes and appears opaque throughout. Cook shrimp, lobster and scallops until they're milky white. Cook clams, mussels and oysters until their shells open. Discard any that don't open.

2. Meat and poultry

During pregnancy, changes in your metabolism and circulation may increase the risk of bacterial food poisoning. Your reaction may be more severe than if you weren't pregnant. Rarely, your baby may get sick, too.

To prevent food-borne illness, fully cook all meats and poultry before eating. Look for the juices to run clear, but use a meat thermometer to make sure. Skip medium or rare burgers and sausages. Be careful with hot dogs and deli meats, too. These are sources of a rare but potentially serious food-borne illness known as listeriosis. Cook hot dogs and heat deli meats until they're steaming hot — or avoid them completely.

3. Dairy products

Dairy products such as skim milk, mozzarella cheese and cottage cheese can be a healthy part of your diet. But anything containing unpasteurized milk is a no-no. These products may lead to food-borne illness.

Unless these soft cheeses are clearly labeled as being made with pasteurized milk, don't eat:

a. Brie
b. Feta
c. Camembert
d. Blue cheese
e. Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco, queso de hoja, queso de crema and queso asadero

4. Caffeine

Caffeine can cross the placenta and affect your baby's heart rate and breathing. Some studies suggest that drinking too much caffeine may be associated with a small decrease in birth weight or an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Other studies haven't reported the same risks.

Because of the unknowns, your health care provider may recommend avoiding caffeine during the first trimester and limiting the amount of caffeine you drink to less than 300 milligrams a day during the second and third trimesters.

5. Herbal Tea

Although herbal tea may be soothing, avoid it unless your health care provider says it's OK — even the types of herbal tea marketed specifically to pregnant women. There's little data on the effects of specific herbs on developing babies. And large amounts of some herbal teas, such as red raspberry leaf, may cause contractions.

6. Alcohol

One drink isn't likely to hurt your baby, but no level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy. The safest bet is to avoid alcohol entirely.
Consider the risks. Mothers who drink alcohol have a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Excessive alcohol consumption may result in fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause facial deformities, heart problems, low birth weight and mental retardation. Even moderate drinking can impact your baby's brain development.
If you're concerned because you drank alcohol before you knew you were pregnant or you think you need help to stop drinking, talk with your health care provider.

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