How to eat well during pregnancy


You're eating for two, but what does that really mean? How many calories per day? What should you avoid? Dr. Keith Eddleman, author of Pregnancy for Dummies, explains how to eat well during pregnancy.

How to eat well during pregnancy
  • Gain between 25 and 35 pounds during the pregnancy.
  • Increase your caloric intake by about 300 calories a day.
  • Choose a high-protein, high-calcium diet that is low in saturated fat.
  • Avoid overindulging. A little chocolate is OK, but a lot of chocolate also means a lot of caffeine.
  • Take prenatal vitamin supplements.
  • Avoid consuming anything containing unpasteurized milk.
  • Don’t eat fish that are known to contain dangerously high levels of mercury, such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. Canned tuna can be eaten in moderation, no more than one or two cans per week.
  • Don’t eat raw meat.
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I'm Stacey Tisdale for Howdini. OK. So you're eating for two now. What does that actually mean? What should you be eating, and what should you be avoiding? Joining us to help navigate through these questions, Dr. Keith Eddleman. He's the director of obstetrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and the author of two books, including Pregnancy for Dummies. Doctor Eddleman, thank you so much for joining us. How much is too much when it comes to weight gain during pregnancy?


It's probably one of the most common questions I get. And, really, for the average sized woman, the recommendation is that you gain somewhere between 25 and 35 pounds throughout the whole pregnancy.


25 to 35 pounds-- how does that translate into actual calories?


Well, most women-- average women-- when they're not pregnant, consume about 2000 to 2100 calories a day. A pregnant woman needs to increase her caloric intake by about 300 calories a day, so it would increase to about 2300 or 2400 total calories a day.


And what do you think are the kinds of foods that pregnant women should really focus on? There's so much debate about this.


It's not just calories. You really want to eat high quality calories. Things that are high in protein. You're building a baby. Babies are built of protein. And you want to have the building blocks to build the baby. So high proteins. Things that are low in saturated fat, just like when you're not pregnant. We also want to eat foods that are high in calcium. You're building bones for the baby, so you want to make sure that you have an adequate calcium intake. So, really, green leafy vegetables, that have lots of vitamins and iron themselves. So, really, a good, healthy, common sensical diet that's the same as when you're not pregnant.


Cravings are so strong. And I know a lot of women say oh, I can eat whatever I want, because I'm taking some of these great prenatal vitamins and supplements. Talk more about that.


You know, if you have a craving for chocolate, it's OK to indulge yourself occasionally. That's OK. You just want to make sure that you're not overdoing it. Things like chocolate have a lot of good in them, but they also have some things that you want to watch out for. They're high in saturated fat, so you want to make sure that you're not making the largest part of your diet that. They also, and a lot of people don't know this, but they also have caffeine. Caffeine's OK during pregnancy, as long as you limit it to about 300 milligrams a day. That boils down to about two cups of coffee a day, two normal sized cups of coffee. But if you're eating a lot of chocolate, then you need to add that caffeine into the total of 300 milligrams a day. So cravings are OK, as long as you don't overindulge yourself in them.


Let's talk about overindulgence. A lot a debate about whether or not pregnant women should drink alcohol. What's the real story on that?


Well, there's no absolute safe level of alcohol that's known. But most clinicians, most obstetricians, feel that an occasional alcoholic beverage-- say, once or twice a week-- is really not going to cause substantial harm to the baby. Clearly binge drinking on a regular basis, or drinking heavily every day, is not good, and no woman should do that while she's pregnant. But probably, if you have a normal-sized glass of wine, or a normal beverage one or two times a week, that's probably safe for the baby.


So watch what you eat. Avoid overindulging in any of these things, and you do think the supplements and the prenatal vitamins are a big help as well.


Prenatal vitamin supplements contain just that, vitamins and minerals. They don't contain calories. So that doesn't substitute the need to increase your caloric intake. You still need to do that by eating foods that are good calories, high in proteins, and things like that. But the supplements help you get some of the minerals and vitamins that's hard for you to get in a normal diet.


What food should women avoid?


Well, women should avoid consuming anything that's made with unpasteurized milk. Cheeses that are made with unpasteurized milk. Anything made with pasteurized milk is fine. Unpasteurized milk can contain listeria, which is a bacteria that's harmful to pregnancy. So anything made with unpasteurized milk you should avoid. Women should also avoid eating fish that are high in levels of mercury. Specifically those fish are swordfish, tile fish, king mackerel, and shark. Those fish contain high levels of mercury, which can affect a developing pregnancy, so you should avoid those. Things like salmon are actually low in mercury, and those can provide some beneficial effects. The omega-3 fatty acids, and those, can be beneficial to the developing fetus.


Great question that people ask, should I avoid canned tuna? Canned tuna does contain some mercury, but not at the same levels as the four that I mentioned earlier. So it's OK to consume canned tuna in moderation, probably one to two cans a week, I would limit it to. You should not eat raw meat. Things like steak tartar, you should avoid, because they carry not only a risk of listeria, but also something called toxoplasmosis, which is another type of infection. So I would avoid eating raw meat.


Great advice. Dr. Keith Eddleman, director of obstetrics at Mount Sinai Hospital here in New York. Thanks for joining howdini.


Thanks for having me.

meet theexpert
  • Dr. Keith Eddleman

    Dr. Keith Eddleman Director of Obstetrics, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York Dr. Keith Eddleman is Director of Obstetrics at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. He practices Clinical Genetics, Maternal & Fetal Medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Eddleman is the author of two books on pregnancy. more about this expert »

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