What pregnant woman doesn’t have crazy food cravings during pregnancy? And explaining the extra weight gain as “baby weight?” Avoid these foods and eating habits during pregnancy.

Sorry – pregnancy isn’t a time to pack on the pounds by caving into ice cream and other cravings. During your pregnancy, you’ll need roughly an additional 300 calories a day, which you can get through nutritious choices, not sugar-laden empty calories.

If you’re experiencing nausea, heartburn or physical discomforts as your pregnancy progresses, try eating smaller meals throughout the day rather than two to three large ones. Both too little or too much weight gain increase the health risks for you and your baby. Current recommendations from the Insitute of Medicine regarding weight gain related to your BMI status are:

  • Underweight: 28-40 pounds
  • Normal weight: 25-35 pounds
  • Overweight: 15-25 pounds
  • Obese: 11-20 pounds

If you’re pregnant with twins, the Insitute of Medicine advises the following weight gain guidelines based on your prepregnancy BMI: If you are in the normal BMI category aim to gain 37-54 pounds; overweight women, 31-50 pounds; and obese women, 25-42 pounds.

What foods and eating habits to avoid during pregnancy

Current recommendations are to avoid alcohol, smoking and illegal drugs. Tell your healthcare provider about any over-the-counter or prescription medications you’re taking to determine if they’re safe in pregnancy or if you’ll need an alternative or to come off of the medication altogether.

Avoid mercury which is common in certain fish, including swordfish, tilefish, mackerel and shark. Avoid raw or undercooked meats, and limit caffeine to no more than one soda or 6 oz cup of coffee daily, each of which typically contain less than 200 milligrams of caffeine, to reduce your risk of miscarriage.

This is also not the time to frequent your favorite deli. Processed meats, like deli meats and hot dogs, unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses, prepared and uncooked meats, poultry and shellfish can contain a bacteria that causes an illness called listeriosis, which is particularly harmful to you and your baby during pregnancy. Flu-like symptoms can emerge several weeks after contamination and if you get infected, this disease can cause miscarriage or stillbirth. Tell your healthcare provider if you develop these types of symptoms. If listeriosis is found, you and your baby can be treated with antibiotics.

Unusual food cravings

Perhaps you’ve heard of some pregnant women craving or actually eating clay, ice or corn starch (among other things). This condition is called pica and involves eating non-food substances, including gravel! More research is needed to determine what causes women to crave non-food items and if you’re having these cravings, talk to your healthcare provider. Most women with pica are reluctant to reveal this to their provider, but it’s important to discuss the risks of pica for you and your baby.

And regarding food cravings, pregnancy is a time to occasionally indulge reasonable food cravings as long as the majority of your diet is healthy and meeting you and your baby’s nutritional needs. Eat well – be well! And remember to avoid these foods and eating habits during pregnancy.

Whilst on the subject of food, you should read out features on What to Eat – and Avoid – in Pregnancy and 3 Key supplements for pregnancy plus Veggies for a Healthy Pregnancy 


Carolyn J. Lee, PhD, CNE, RN, is a nurse expert adviser to Healthy Mom&Baby.

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