“Children cannot make choices about their environment; it is up to adults to make the right decisions to ensure that they are protected.” — Dr. Lynn R. Goldman
I know more than anything you want a healthy baby and I truly want you to have a healthy baby too.
Even though my passion is all about food - nutrition, there are environmental factors that you need to be aware of. I created this 3 part blog series to help you with that. I can't stress how important these 3 blogs are for your health, the health of your baby and your family.
And the truth is that it's really up to you to become informed and be the health advocate in your family. I know you can do this... all it takes is baby steps everyday. Believe me, I'm still making baby steps and I keep learning so I can give you the information as well as keep my family as healthy as possible.
So here is how I broke down this 3 part blog series:
- Part 1 - Attention Moms! Top 12 Things To Avoid While Pregnant, is all about the foods and substances you should avoid while pregnant.
- Part 3 - Attention Moms! 8 Environmental Things Children and Pregnant Women Should Avoid.
I also know that these 3 blogs may be overwhelming or scary but they are meant for you to have a guideline so that you can make healthier choices to ensure you have a healthy baby. You may not make all the changes over night, nor do I expect you too but you will be able to decide what you want to change right away! And usually it is the first thing you'll hear about from your healthcare provider.... avoid _____ foods.
Why do we need to clean house? And I'm not talking about your home!
Did you know that The first 3 months (1st trimester) are the most important!!!
“What’s good for mother is likely good for baby; what’s harmful for mother is likely to be even more harmful for baby. When in doubt, leave it out!” – Dr. William Sears, M.D. & Martha Sears, R.N.
What not to eat or take during pregnancy
This is first and foremost! Your doctor should have given you a list of foods and substances you should avoid during pregnancy. But just in case, this is where I am going to start...WHAT TO AVOID. Always consult with your OB, midwife or doctor if you have questions!!! Remember you are growing a human being inside you that is growing every second of every minute. The food you eat literally builds everything about your baby. His/her eyes, ears, brain, skin, heart, finger nails, fingers and toes. So choose wisely.
I know food can be a touchy subject but what if I told you that you have the ability to "program" your baby-child to be a healthy adult in the future? Wouldn't you want to do everything in your power to make sure they live a long and healthy life? I would. What's great is that you can reverse damaging behavior. What’s good for baby is good for you too in the long run. So here are the basics foods and substances to avoid:
The Terrible Twelve
1.) Avoid alcohol (wine, beer, spirits, etc.)
Why? Alcohol is a toxin to developing brain cells. Alcohol crosses the placenta to your baby. The baby is smaller and less developed and not able to process the alcohol as fast as an adult. Excessive use of alcohol may lead to birth defects. Alcohol use by pregnant mothers is the cause of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
2.) Avoid illegal drugs and/or certain legal drugs.
(marijuana, mood altering drugs, prescription drugs- always talk to your OB/ midwife or doctor if you are on prescription drugs. Read warning labels!)
Why? Studies have shown that consumption of illegal drugs and some legal ones during pregnancy can result in miscarriage, low birth weight, premature labor, placental abruption, birth defects, fetal death, and even maternal death.
You can also check SafeFetus.com - A complete database of worldwide medication (trade and generic) providing information on their use, fetal risk during pregnancy and breastfeeding risk according to the FDA.
3.) Avoid smoking tobacco and second-hand smoke.
Why? Smoking robs your baby of nutrients and oxygen, and it injures their little developing brains. Studies have shown tobacco use can cause miscarriage, premature labor, babies with smaller birth weight, birth defects, and can cause problems with the placenta (the baby’s life line to the mother). It limits the blood flow to the uterus and causes inflammation in the uterine arteries, making it harder for nutrients to travel from mom to fetus. Smoking during and after pregnancy is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Babies are more likely to suffer from asthma if exposed to second-hand smoke.
4.) Avoid high amounts of caffeine (coffee, sodas, tea, energy drinks, chocolate).
Why? Research suggests that pregnant women shouldn't consume more than 200 mg. of caffeine (= 2 cups of coffee or 1 mug of coffee a day). Caffeine is a stimulant; it increases your blood pressure and heart rate and crosses the placenta to your baby. It can affect sleep patterns in you and your baby. This also applies when breastfeeding. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, which could lead to dehydration.
In an American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology study, researchers discovered that once a woman consumes more than 200 mg. of caffeine daily, her miscarriage rate increased. Did you know that caffeine is in more than just coffee? Tea, chocolate, cola and cocoa products also contain it. So do many energy drinks. It is best to avoid caffeine. You should also know that just because something says “de-caffeinated” does not mean it is 100% caffeine free. Chemicals are used to remove the caffeine, and from a health perspective those chemicals may still be present and may pose a health risk. “Better safe than sorry,” applies here.
How much caffeine is in your favorite drinks and snacks? Amounts are according to the American Pregnancy Association:
- Starbucks Grande Coffee (16 oz) 400 mg.
- Starbucks House Blend Coffee (16 oz) 259 mg.
- Dr. Pepper (12 oz) 37 mg.
- 7 Eleven Big Gulp Diet Coke (32 oz) 124 mg.
- 7 Eleven Big Gulp Coca-Cola (32 oz) 92 mg.
- Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Buzz Ice Cream (8 oz) 72 mg.
- Baker’s chocolate (1 oz) 26 mg.
- Green tea (6 oz) 40 mg.
- Black tea (6 oz) 45 mg.
- Excedrin (per capsule) 65mg.
5.) Avoid excessive amounts of salt.
Why? First I want to say that...I am not telling you to not have any salt. We need salt – sodium. Your body needs sodium in order to function optimally; sodium is an electrolyte, meaning it helps regulate how your body handles fluids, super important for pregnant mamas. However, most Americans are getting way too much salt on a daily basis, usually due to eating out and consuming processed foods. A study published in the journal “Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases” suggested that regular consumption (often/daily) of high amounts of salt may lead to alterations in the heart structures of offspring.
- The RDA (recommended daily allowance) is 1500 mg./day. The tolerable upper intake level for healthy adults is 2,300 mg. per day. One teaspoon of salt is 2,300 mg. However, the average American consumes 3,000- 5,000 mg. a day.
- Here’s a good rule when looking at nutrition labels: Look at the calorie amount and then look at the sodium level. If the sodium level is higher than the calorie amount, DON’T EAT IT! Some people become “salt sensitive”, which causes their blood pressure to go up or causes them to retain water. During pregnancy a small amount of water retention is normal from all the extra fluids. To combat this you need to lower your salt intake by avoiding high–sodium foods (processed foods) and raise your potassium intake. How? By eating more foods that contain potassium such as bananas, coconut water, medium sized tomato, avocado, beet greens, lentils, peach, swish chard, spinach, carrots, lima beans, celery and other fruits and vegetables.
6.) Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish and eggs.
Why? There are several bacteria and viruses that can cause you to become sick and that can harm your growing fetus- baby. Always make sure your food is cooked properly. Don't eat raw cookie dough or cake batter, even though it is delicious, because of the raw eggs. Avoid homemade eggnog and home made ice cream.
7.) Avoid raw or undercooked or contaminated seafood (avoid oysters and clams).
Why? Because they may cause you to become ill.
8.) Avoid seafood high in mercury.
Why? Even though seafood is a good source of protein and omega 3’s, which your growing fetus needs, some fish and shellfish contain high levels of mercury. Mercury can damage your baby’s nervous system. Avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish - all high in mercury.
What is considered safe? According to Dr. Sears, pediatrician, pregnant woman should eat WILD-caught, Alaskan Salmon.
Resources on "safe" fish:
- Here is a link to safe wild-caught Alaskan salmon that can be shipped to your front door for a 10% discount. Vital Choice.
- Monterey Seafood Watch has great resources to help you decide what is safe and what is not. So for more information on safe seafood, click here.
- NRDC - A wallet sized guide to protecting your family’s health - click here.
- This website offers a free analysis that determines exact concentrations of mercury based on fish consumption. Click here.
Here’s a great tip: Cook your seafood with garlic. Garlic has been shown to bind and reduce levels of mercury in the body, making it less toxic. Also cilantro has been shown to help the body get rid of heavy metals.
9.) Avoid soft, un-pasturized, or cheese with mold.
Why? The fear is that it can lead to food-born illnesses. According to the Mayo Clinic; unless these soft cheeses are clearly labeled as being pasteurized or made with pasteurized milk, do not eat:
- Blue cheese
- Mexican style cheeses, such as “queso blanco,” “queso fresco,” and “panela.”
The good news is that the harder the cheese, the better the calcium source!
10.) Avoid excess consumption of "white" foods. (pasta, white bread, foods prepared with refined white flour or sugar).
Why? “ White” foods tend to be processed and cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. (More on this in the carbohydrate section in the Nutrition for Your Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby and Beyond.)
11.) Avoid high fructose corn syrup.
Why? High fructose corn syrup is not found in nature. Did you know that it supplies nearly 10% of all the calories consumed by Americans? Some researchers believe that HFCS increases blood fats (triglycerides) more than the same amount of table sugar. Say NO to fake sugars too! I prefer to stick with what Mother Nature has made, grade B maple syrup or honey. FYI - Milk companies want to add artificial sweeteners into their milk so consumers will drink more, and they want to do it without putting it on the label. So beware of hidden sweeteners! If you choose not to use artificial sweetener, buy organic milk.
12.) Avoid GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms).
Why? They are foods that have been genetically altered by scientists to grow faster and to resist plant diseases. GMO’s are created by taking the DNA from one species and splicing it into another species’ DNA. Over 80% of packaged foods contain GMO’s. The average person eats 198 lbs. of GMO foods a year. There are nine genetically modified food crops: soy, corn, cotton (used for cottonseed oil), canola, sugar beets (used in most U.S. sugar), Hawaiian and Chinese papaya, some zucchini, yellow crook neck squash, and alfalfa (used for hay). To make it easier to avoid GMO’s, the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) offers a list of thousands of products that have been verified as non-GMO at: www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com or via a free iPhone app, ShopNoGMO.
Unfortunately, the jury is still out as to whether GMO’s are harmful to humans even though there have been several studies showing how GMO’s seriously affect the health of test animals. Serious effects of GMO’s in animals range from infertility to cancerous tumors. A new study came out that tested 71 women and found that 90% had traces of glyphosate in their blood stream. Which is alarming.
If you want to take a precautionary approach, remember, “When in doubt - leave it out!” Buy organic corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, and yellow crook neck squash. And also consider buying organic cotton clothing and bedding for your little one.