As a nutritionist treating many mothers-to-be, I find most expecting women have more questions than answers. Unfortunately, all to often the answers received may contradict what they have heard from their mother, sister, BFF, or even physician! Questions such as, “Is this safe?”, “Can I eat this?”, “Will this hurt my baby?”, etc. haunt most expecting mothers to the point of exhaustion. That is, if the symptoms of first trimester hadn’t done that already!
It is important to realize, most pregnancy research is obtained through relatively small sample sized clinical trials, with mostly subjective findings. Think about it, not many women will volunteer themselves knowing the variables in the experiment may harm their baby. If you knew you were signing up to see if taking “Vitamin XYZ” at high doses could cause possible fetal defects, would you sign up? Probably not! Objective findings in these trials are minimal, and most research is observational-based according to culture, geography, age, and lifestyle. While Internet searches, and pregnancy websites such as “The Bump” or “What To Expect When Expecting” seem to be the go to reference these days, always remember to consult a physician before coming to any conclusion regarding your pregnancy.
The warning labels are out there. “Warning: Do not use if Pregnant or nursing” has become the cornerstone for more and more everyday nutritional labels, alcoholic beverages, and/or supplements on the market. So I ask you this simple question…
If a pregnant women shouldn’t eat it, should you?
Consider fish consumption during pregnancy for the risk of Mercury poisoning, or lunch meat consumption for the risk of listeria. Do you think Mercury and/or listeria is selective to only pregnant women? The risk may be higher for pregnant women, but there is still a risk for everyone! Or could it be the nutritional guidelines and regulations for pregnant women are somewhat unknown and undefined? Unfortunately, the answer is the latter. The guidelines are, literally (and unfortunately), just guidelines.
That being said, a healthy lifestyle PRIOR to conception is much more critical. Providing a healthy environment for your little embryo PRIOR to starting a healthy lifestyle is key. In the same way you can’t exercise your way out of an unhealthy diet, you can’t simply stop eating deli meat to declare yourself healthy during pregnancy. This reminds me of a patient of mine who gave up deli meat during pregnancy (because it was “unhealthy”), yet struggled with a mountain dew addiction throughout her three trimesters. Despite my best efforts, she continued to drink 2-3 cans of Mountain Dew daily…
Being healthy only while pregnant should never be considered a lifestyle. Being healthy EVERYDAY (including pregnancy) should be your lifestyle!
So again, I ask you. “If a Pregnant Woman Shouldn’t Eat it, Should you?” I say, it shouldn’t matter. Choosing a healthy lifestyle should never be selective. If I have ever treated you, then you’ve definitely heard me say it: Everything in moderation, except for addictions. Of course, this excludes the obvious such as drugs, smoking, etc. When it comes to pregnancy, the same applies, but always consult your physician first.
So, let’s be all healthy. Start now, and start today. Pregnant, or not pregnant.
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