Recommended and unadvised products during pregnancy

Do you have an irresistible urge to eat pickles and ice cream since becoming pregnant? You may develop unusual tastes during your pregnancy. The important thing is to remember to follow a few basic guidelines to maintain your health and your baby’s!

Nutrition during pregnancy—not just a question of quantity!

Contrary to what one might think, it isn’t necessary to eat twice as much during pregnancy. However, it is necessary to eat twice as well! Even though daily calorie requirements are slightly higher during pregnancy (especially during the last two trimesters), it is the quality of nutrition that is most important. 

Eating well during pregnancy is beneficial to your unborn baby, who depends on you entirely to obtain the nutrients he/she needs to thrive. Additionally, a healthy diet is beneficial during pregnancy, as it provides the following advantages:

  • it reduces energy dips
  • decreases the risk of pregnancy diabetes
  • promotes healthy weight gain

Therefore, it is in your best interest to watch what you eat until you give birth! Moreover, it is recommended to take a folic acid supplement during your pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. The recommended dose depends on various factors, including your age, health status, and personal history. Ask your pharmacist what dose of folic acid you should take.

For additional information about what vitamins you should take during pregnancy, read the following texts: Folic acid and pregnancy and Vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.

The Canada Food Guide—a valuable ally

Even during pregnancy, the Canada Food Guide remains a valuable source in determining what you should eat. In fact, women between the ages of 19 and 50 can follow the general recommendations, which include consuming: 

  • seven to eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • six or seven servings of grain products a day
  • two servings of milk or milk substitutes a day
  • two servings of meat or meat substitutes a day

However, some changes are necessary during pregnancy, as a pregnant woman needs roughly 300 calories more a day on average than her usual calorie requirements. Also, during the second and third trimesters, a pregnant woman should consume two or three additional servings a day than those recommended. These additional servings can come from any of the four food groups in the Canada Food Guide. To ensure a constant source of energy throughout the day, it is recommended to eat three meals and two or three snacks daily.

Weight gain is a good indicator in establishing if the calorie intake is satisfactory. For a woman with a normal body mass index (BMI)—between 18.5 and 24.9—weight gain should vary between 25 and 35 pounds, and should be higher if the BMI is below 18.5, or lower if the BMI is of 25 or more. The doctor responsible for monitoring the pregnancy can help the patient to determine if her weight gain is adequate.

Special circumstances

For various reasons, your diet may not include foods from every food group:

  • allergies or food intolerances
  • vegetarian or vegan diet
  • religious beliefs

Therefore, it is important to ensure that there aren't any nutritional deficiencies. To do this, the restricted foods can be replaced by other foods which contain similar nutrients, or vitamin and mineral supplements can be taken. In either case, it is preferable to consult a nutritionist to determine if your diet meets the needs associated with pregnancy.

Products that should be avoided

Certain foods should be banned during pregnancy to maintain your and your baby's health. Thus, you should avoid:

  • undercooked or raw meats and seafood, including sushi and tartar
  • fish containing high levels of mercury—it is best to limit your consumption of predatory fish such as tuna and swordfish to 150 g a month and, instead, choose salmon, sole fish, trout, haddock, herring, and canned tuna. Health Canada recommends the consumption of at least 150 g of cooked fish per week for pregnant women
  • unpasteurized cheeses, such as brie, camembert, roquefort cheese, and stilton cheese
  • raw or partially cooked eggs
  • raw sprouts, such as alfalfa

Although these products may be tempting, it is important to know that they hold a risk of bacterial contamination. Because of this risk, it is preferable to refrain from consuming them during pregnancy to maintain your and your baby's health.

Making wise and healthy choices

It is completely normal to feel like treating yourself at times during pregnancy. If you are among those women who have food cravings, be careful! Make sure to choose the right foods to satisfy these cravings, as some have few nutritional benefits, which is often the case for very fatty and sweet foods such as chocolate, pastries, chips, and poutine. These foods may seem to satisfy your cravings in the moment, but they could lead to excessive weight gain.

In addition, remember that your unborn child nourishes itself from what you ingest. During your pregnancy, make sure to stock your refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods that you particularly enjoy—berries, raw vegetables, yogurt, compote, granola bars, etc. Eliminate all temptations. Of course, you can treat yourself a little on occasion if your diet is generally balanced and healthy!

Caffeine

Can't go without your morning coffee? Don't despair! Know that it is not forbidden to drink caffeine during pregnancy. However, moderation is the best policy! It is recommended to have a maximum of 300 mg of caffeine per day for pregnant women. This includes not only coffee (180 mg of caffeine or less a day), but also tea (between 15 and 50 mg of caffeine per cup), soft drinks (between 40 and 50 mg of caffeine per can), and chocolate (roughly 20 mg of caffeine per serving).

Although most energy drinks contain less than 300 mg of caffeine, Health Canada does not recommend their consumption during pregnancy. These drinks often contain other ingredients (such as taurine), for which the effects on pregnant women are not well-known.

Alcohol

Alcohol should be avoided throughout your pregnancy. Alcohol is directly transferred to the foetus through the bloodstream and can cause birth defects, learning disabilities or behavioural problems, and intellectual impairment. Because scientists do not know with certainty what quantity of alcohol can cause these effects, it is better to avoid consuming alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.

What about medication?

Medication must be taken with caution during pregnancy. Don't forget to mention your pregnancy to your pharmacist, who can evaluate the safety of the medications you take according to your condition and, if necessary, suggest changes or a specific follow-up with your doctor.

Always ask pharmacists for advice before taking new medication, even if it is sold over-the-counter or if it is a natural health product. They can explain its potential effects on your and your baby's health, or determine if its use is considered to be safe. Pharmacists are medication experts, who can recommend an appropriate substitute for you and your child, if necessary.

Useful advice

Nutrition during pregnancy can and must remain interesting and varied. It should not be complicated. To keep healthy nutritional habits, don't hesitate to ask for advice from the different healthcare professionals around you, be it your doctor, nutritionist, or pharmacist. That way, you can maintain your health and that of the small being growing inside of you!

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Recommended and unadvised products during pregnancy

Do you have an irresistible urge to eat pickles and ice cream since becoming pregnant? You may develop unusual tastes during your pregnancy. The important thing is to remember to follow a few basic guidelines to maintain your health and your baby’s!
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