'Tis the season of holiday parties and the feeling that when it comes to healthy eating, all bets are off.
Okay, so overindulging on some types of foods at a few parties won’t be the end of me. I know that. But as I near the end of my pregnancy on a pretty good healthy eating streak, I’m hoping to finish strong.
It’s not going to be easy so while encouragement will helpful, having others around me police my personal goals if I fall off the wagon won’t be.
Let’s face it: no one likes to be told what not to do. And as I’m going around the dinner table this month, I realize that with all the delicious foods, the list of what not to touch can be discouraging.
To keep it simple and not feel overwhelmed by everything off-limits this month, I've consolidated the list of “no’s” down into a “three A’s” rule. I’m not saying that these rules should only apply during the holidays -- there are still foods and drinks that may not be safe for baby at any stage of pregnancy -- but with the abundance of gatherings that will contain these types of foods, it may seem harder than ever to stay on track.
Additives. Sticking to natural foods will be my biggest challenge this season. Additives, which are substances added to food to enhance its flavor or appearance, are found in most of the delicious holiday goodies that use artificial coloring or sweeteners. That could be everything from puddings and cookies, to canned vegetables and some fruit juices. Studies don’t give an exact threshold on how much to consume but the goal should be to limit intake as much as possible, according to Susan Roberts, senior scientist and director of the energy metabolism lab at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University.
“At a time when everything that goes through your mouth goes straight to your baby, it’s better to stay away from additives since it’s not natural,” said Roberts.
This ‘A’ to avoid may work to your benefit, since additives may be less likely to be found in homemade rather than store bought foods, depending on the ingredients used. Since it may seem like a hassle to run through each dish’s ingredient before reaching for it, Roberts said to stick to the general mantra of “the more natural the better.”
Alcohol. Sounds like a given, but maybe not. According a recent article in Boston Magazine, a growing number of women have reported enjoying a few glasses during their pregnancy and say they think it’s okay. Looking at scientific evidence on drinking alcohol during pregnancy, it’s hard to define how much, what kind, and at what stage of pregnancy drinking may be considered safe. But a majority studies looking at women who drank during their pregnancy suggest that, at any time during pregnancy, the risks outweigh the benefits. One of the latest studies found that children who were exposed to alcohol in the womb exhibited extreme thinning of the corpus collosum – a bundle of nerve fibers that facilitates communication between the right and left sides of the brain – compared to children whose mothers never drank while pregnant. The study was presented in November at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting.
All under-cooked meat. At a few gatherings this year, I know I may not be able to avoid that family member that encourages me to eat up by slapping a cut of meat right on my plate -- without asking. This time, however, I need to make sure that whatever type of meat it is, I'm not seeing pink. Even if some of us enjoy a more tender piece, it may be worth going for the well-cooked cut this time around. Under-cooked meat can contain bacteria such as E.coli or Salmonella, which can lead to food poisoning or, in more extreme cases, toxoplasmosis.
Of course there may be more foods and drinks on the list to avoid while pregnant, but those that fit into these categories are among the most likely to be found at holiday parties.
Read more holiday food safety tips by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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