Finding out you’re pregnant is such an amazing time! However, when the initial excitement dies down and you actually start thinking about the pregnancy itself; many find themselves suffering from information overload. There is so much material out there focused on rules to follow during pregnancy, with many having to do with what you should or shouldn’t be eating. Wading through this (often contradictory) information can be time consuming and stressful. Don't lose sleep over this! I am here to hopefully shed some light on a few common myths:
1- Follow a Low Fat Diet: MYTH
Nuts, seeds, avocado and fatty fish support your baby's brain and organ development – both before and after birth. Fats also help the placenta and other tissues grow. Women who are pregnant shouldn’t be afraid to include lots of healthy fats in their diet since in addition to a whole host of nutritional benefits; fats help you feel full and can assist in keeping your blood sugar stable.
2- Don’t Eat Fish: MYTH
Many steer clear of fish during their pregnancy because they are fearful of mercury contamination, however fish, as mentioned above, provides us with DHA, a critically important nutrient for our baby’s brain development. Mercury toxicity risk is low if you choose fish on the safe to eat list. Unfortunately, many women cut out fish entirely because they can’t remember which fish are safe to eat and feel it is better to avoid altogether, which can be costly to their growing baby. My first recommendation would be to educate yourself on which fish are best to eat during pregnancy. Some examples of safe to eat fish include salmon, trout, herring, haddock and canned light tuna and we should aim to consume 12 oz per week. If that is not possible, then opt for a high quality fish oil or vegan DHA supplement. This chart highlights the omega 3 and mercury content of most fish. Aim for those in the top right hand corner (highest in omega 3 and lowest in mercury.)
3- Watch Your Weight Carefully: Mostly MYTH
We have all heard the weight gain recommendation that most women should gain between 25-35 lbs during their pregnancy. There is also usually a breakdown of when you should gain this weight, which can be confusing and frustrating for many women since weight gain during pregnancy is not always linear. Some months you may not gain much weight followed by others where you gain much more than the recommendation. This is normal. Instead of focusing on every pound gained, I would instead pay attention to behaviours and how you’re feeling. Are you eating nourishing foods, sleeping well, feeling good, moving your body and trying to manage stress? Then you are likely setting yourself (and your baby) up for success.
4- You Need To Eat For Two: MYTH
Many women feel as though pregnancy gives them a free pass to eat whatever they want since they are now “eating for two.” This unfortunately is not true. On average, we only require about 300 extra calories/day while pregnant, which can add up pretty quickly if you aren’t paying attention. Best bet is to focus on nutrient dense foods, avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates and eat with attention paid to hunger and satiety. And like I mentioned above, weight gain is not the main predictor of baby’s health. However, if you truly are eating for two, then you may end up weighing more than is healthy and that can lead to complications, and may make it harder to lose the weight once baby comes.
5-Avoid Caffeine: MYTH (unless you have/or are at risk for high blood pressure, in which case you should avoid caffeine)
Many women fear this recommendation most. They think they can give up alcohol and eat more leafy greens but please don’t take away their coffee. Fortunately, most research backs up the idea that caffeine in low doses (1-2 cups of coffee/day) likely won’t affect baby’s health or cause any adverse effects. Interestingly, some may find they naturally wean themselves off of coffee during pregnancy due to aversions, which may seem impossible prior to pregnancy but is actually quite common. So, enjoy your cup of coffee if it suits you and use the extra energy not spent obsessing over food to focus on getting ready for your new baby!