Finding ways to eat healthy during the holidays is tough enough, but add pregnancy into the mix and things can get confusing quickly. Women who are expecting face new food restrictions that they didn’t have to deal with when they weren’t pregnant, making certain foods off-limits. So which foods are forbidden and which are welcome? What’s more, are there certain activities that are or aren’t OK? What has to be avoided, and what can you indulge in? To help answer these questions, here’s a look at what to avoid and what to indulge in while pregnant this holiday season:
What to Avoid
This holiday season, here’s what you need to avoid, food and otherwise. Like it or not, these are the things that will have to wait until your baby is born.
• Undercooked Turkey: Because your immune system is weaker when you’re pregnant, you and your growing baby are more vulnerable to foodborne illnesses. Your unborn baby’s immune system isn’t yet strong enough to fight foodborne pathogens, so it’s important to avoid anything that could cause problems. This includes raw or undercooked meats — and around the holidays, the most likely undercooked meat is turkey.
• Soft Cheeses: Sure, the holiday cheese plate looks inviting, but when you’re pregnant you need to stay away from the soft, unpasteurized cheeses like queso fresco, brie, Camembert, feta, goat cheese and Roquefort.
• Raw Cookie Dough: As good as it tastes, raw cookie dough can often carry Salmonella in the uncooked eggs inside. To avoid contamination, skip the raw cookie dough completely.
• Eggnog: Another possible threat, at least when it comes to raw eggs, is the seasonal beverage eggnog, particularly the kind that’s homemade. As with cookie dough, it’s probably best to skip this drink while pregnant.
• Alcohol: Most experts agree that it’s safest for pregnant women to avoid alcohol completely, in order to protect their growing fetus from alcohol-related disease.
• Caffeine: Small amounts of caffeine are likely harmless, but if you overdo it, you risk harming your baby. So cut back on coffee, soda and caffeinated tea and opt instead for hot cider or rooibos tea as your winter warmer.
• Vigorous Activity: Moderate exercise is great for you and your baby while you’re pregnant, but vigorous activity is off limits. Working out too hard or long can overtax your system and potentially hurt the little one growing inside.
What to Indulge In
Thinking about all the foods you can’t have is no way to get in the holiday spirit. So to make the most of being pregnant during the holidays, try focusing on all that you can eat freely and enjoy, instead:
• Water: Pregnant women need a minimum of eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, so use the season of parties and potlucks to constantly have a glass of water in your hand. To make it more enjoyable, add a squeeze of lemon or lime, or order a sparkling water that looks more like a cocktail.
• Fresh Fruit: Citrus fruits like clementines and satsumas are not only readily available in the winter season, but they are also loaded with vitamins for you and baby. Load up on these refreshing winter gems to your heart’s content.
• Washed Veggies: Chopped carrots or salad greens are green-light snacks during pregnancy, provided you wash them well. In order to protect against contamination, wash all produce before eating it.
• Whole Grains, Nuts, Beans and Seeds: Your pregnant body needs lots of folic acid, iron and protein, so eating nutritious foods like whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds is a smart and enjoyable option.
• Small Meals: For a lot of pregnant women, six small meals a day works better than one or two big ones. In fact, eating several healthy meals throughout the day can keep your blood sugar and energy levels at more moderate, consistent levels.
• Walking: Walking is one of the best exercises for pregnant women, great through all nine months of pregnancy. Because it’s low in impact to your knees and ankles, it allows you to stay fit while also staying safe. So even during the busy holiday season, make time for 20- to 30-minute walks most days.
The holidays are a time of celebration — and that’s true whether you’re expecting or not. When you have a baby on the way, follow the tips above to know what to avoid and what to indulge on in the midst of this busy season!
Dr. Charles Bowers worked in the medical field for over 30 years and is now a retired OB/Gyn. He is now a medical forensic evaluator at Ross Feller Casey, LLP.