I’ve mentioned before about how being pregnant is quite similar to being engaged in terms of how “the industry” treats you. When you’re engaged people may try to guilt you into buying all the little “extras”…implying that if you don’t, then your marriage is doomed for failure.

Side Note:  I did NOT buy the little monogrammed cocktail napkins, and we were just fine. Also, I DID buy a monogrammed floor decal for the dance floor…..but it was lost somewhere in the pre-wedding chaos and never even got used. Still….we were fine.

Things can be quite similar when you’re pregnant. You MUST buy this item or attend this class. Similarly, you must NOT engage in that activity, or eat that food! But how much of it is based in science? Very little. At least the items to buy or classes to attend could be offered as advice from women who have gone before. But the food stuff I find to be downright ridiculous….most of it completely fallacious.

So here’s the real-deal on the lies (which I’ve euphemistically called “fiction”) and truths about pregnancy eats.

Pregnancy:  Fact or Fiction

When you’re pregnant, SUSHI is off-limits:  FICTION!

  • When you’re pregnant, your immune system is not fully-functioning and people often recommend to avoid sushi so you don’t get sick from any bacteria in the uncooked fish. But here’s the truth:  unless you are living on the coast, ALL fish has been flash-frozen before being sent to the sushi restaurant, thus killing any germs. Obviously, you need to go to a “good” place where the fish isn’t just sitting out for hours (because, of course, bacteria will accumulate), but as long as you’re going somewhere reputable, this is NOT a problem. Also, you can always eat vegetarian and/or cooked sushi, no problem (even though people continue to stare/judge) *Note:  You may, however, want to avoid tuna in your sushi….see below.

When you’re pregnant, TUNA should be avoided:  HALF-FACT!

  • Really, the truth is that you should be avoiding fish that is high in mercury, as eating mercury during pregnancy has been linked to several developmental delays for the baby. Fish that are high in mercury are Tuna (ahi, bigeye), Shark, Swordfish, Marlin, and others (see here). However, canned tuna (like the Chicken of the Sea tuna), as well as a few other varieties, tend to be much lower in mercury.

When you’re pregnant, SOFT CHEESES are off-limits:  FICTION!

  • Maybe if you are vacationing somewhere super-fancy where the cheese is straight from the farm, this would be true. The danger here is eating unpasteurized cheese because of the bacteria that could be present, but 99% of the cheese sold in the US has been pasteurized (even “soft” cheeses like feta and brie). So this is just an unfounded pregnancy myth!

When you’re pregnant, DELI MEAT (and hot dogs, sausage, and any other pre-cooked meat) should be avoided:  HALF-FACT!

  • In general, pregnant women are advised to avoid these foods because of the risk of them containing listeria. Most normal, healthy people can eat meat with listeria with no problem. But a pregnant woman with her compromised immune system could become quite ill and it could even cause miscarriage. However, that doesn’t mean that deli meat is off-limits for an entire 9 months! Any of these pre-cooked meats can be safely consumed, as long as they’re heated to “boiling point” just before consumption. I’ve had many panini-style sandwiches where I’ve heated the meat first and it’s been great! (psst:  I also had several deli sandwiches before realizing I was pregnant, and I was always totally fine…it’s probably better to avoid it be safe, but I’m just sayin….nothing happened to me).

When you’re pregnant, FISH should be avoided:  FICTION!

  • I think this also comes from the whole trying-to-avoid-mercury thing. The doctor at my student health clinic actually made the broad, sweeping statement that I should avoid all fish while pregnant. Not only is this completely unfounded, it actually runs COUNTER to much of the scientific-based knowledge we have about consuming Omega 3’s (found abundantly in fish) during pregnancy. Omega 3 fatty acids are like little miracles for our body – they help brain and nervous-system development, they stimulate the production of breast milk, they reduce the likelihood of physical illness and developing allergies…the list of benefits goes on (see here). In general, Americans’ diets are sorely lacking in Omega 3 fatty acids, so most people can up their intake with a supplement. But, it’s also naturally occurring in fish! Stick to the low-mercury fish and you’re not only eating healthy, you’re potentially boosting your babies’ braininess! It’s a win-win!

When you’re pregnant, CAFFEINE should be avoided:  HALF-FACT!

  • Some studies have linked caffeine-intake with an increased risk of miscarriage. In my case, caffeine was one of my first-trimester aversions (could NOT STAND coffee or my beloved diet dr peppers!). However, most doctors will say that caffeine in moderation is totally acceptable. The recommended “limit” currently in place by the American Pregnancy Association is about 200mg per day. This means a soda or even a 12 oz cup of coffee is totally fine (source). (Side Note: I was at the store the other day buying groceries and coffee was amidst my other normal purchases. The cashier actually had the audacity to ask if the coffee was for me, because – as he said – “isn’t coffee supposed to be really bad for you?”  Ummmm…..no, the coffee is not for me….not that its any of your business. My husband happens to still drink the juice, so it’s on the grocery list for him. Thanks for your concern though!)

As you can see, there are a lot of myths out there about what “should” and “should not” be consumed during pregnancy. Unfortunately, a lot of it is total crap. But, even those items that have some-truth to them are often misunderstood. You’ll notice I didn’t have a single item on the list that I called a “FACT”…instead, I had a few “HALF-FACT”s that I wanted to explain in a little more detail.

Note that I am NOT a medical doctor, registered dietician, etc., and that if you’re pregnant you should talk to your doctor about your eating habits. I’m just saying that a lot of the hype out there in the world about pregnancy-eats is not necessarily scientifically-based and that it’s worth doing a little research on your own!