Eating for Two: The Truth Behind 4 Common Pieces of Pregnancy Advice

Living Lifewise Thursday, July 3, 2014 Written by

Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Dana Robertson Halter.

Are you eating for two (or three, like my friend Katie) this summer? I’ve been there. And I learned a lot along the way.

It’s nearly impossible to make it through your pregnancy without someone telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat. Below are four of the most common food warnings—coupled with the latest research.

Dana and her family

1. Have dessert after every meal, you’re eating for two!

I thought I could eat to my heart’s content once I got that positive pregnancy test. Then I discovered that “eating for two” earns you just 300 extra calories. That doesn’t even cover my favorite craving—a McDonald’s caramel sundae (340 calories). Carrying a baby isn’t easy, and I firmly believe it justifies the occasional sundae, cookie or candy bar. Just be sure that you’re eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—and drinking lots of water.

2. Say goodbye to coffee…and hello to caffeine headaches.

My friend Rachel visited her neighborhood Starbucks at nine months pregnant and ended up getting lectured about how her cup of coffee was putting her baby’s health at risk. In fact, coffee is fine in moderation. Studies show that over 200 mg of caffeine a day (more than a 12-ounce cup of coffee) can increase your odds of miscarriage or pre-term birth. As long as you stay below that threshold, go ahead and enjoy that latte or cup of black tea.

3. Take a nine-month break from soft cheese.

One of the most pervasive pregnancy diet myths is that you can’t eat soft cheeses. In reality, you can load up on brie and camembert—just make sure they’re pasteurized. Unpasteurized products can carry Listeria, a common bacteria that’s dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system. Avoid cheeses that include raw milk (sometimes served at high-end restaurants and delis with a huge selection). Just look at the label or ask your waiter whether the cheese is pasteurized before you indulge.

Healthy eating for two

4. Stay away from deli meats.

There is some truth behind this one. Like unpasteurized soft cheeses, cold cuts can carry Listeria. But if you heat deli meat until it’s steaming hot, you eliminate the risk. When you’re pregnant, you’re more susceptible to food-borne illnesses, so take extra precautions to avoid getting sick. Not only is vomiting no fun (pregnant or not), it’s dehydrating, which can be dangerous for you and your baby. So enjoy those summer BBQs, but select cold food chilled below 40 degrees and hot food heated above 140 degrees.

Along with these health guidelines, of course, you have to juggle cravings. When you get pregnant, your tastes will change—and what you crave won’t necessarily be the most nutritious option. That’s okay!

What I’ve Learned

One of my healthiest friends (she snacks on chopped cabbage during the day) despised veggies during her pregnancy. She compensated by loading up on fruit. When I was pregnant, I wanted to eat boxed macaroni and cheese for every meal. I made up for all that powdered cheese by indulging two of my other cravings: sliced tomatoes and pineapple.

If I don’t allow myself to eat what sounds good, then the food I’m not eating is all I can think about. So when I craved something indulgent, I ate it…and made an effort to choose a healthier option at my next meal. I also made sure to exercise throughout my pregnancies.

What’s the best food advice you received during pregnancy? What foods did you crave?


Dana_Robertson_HalterDana Robertson Halter is a lifelong athlete and mother of 4-year-old Cassandra and 2-year-old McKenna. Dana started swimming competitively at six, began racing triathlons after college, switched to bike racing in 2004 because triathlons were too lonely, and then went back to racing solo (marathons) after having her first child in 2009. Living LifeWise is how Dana keeps her body and brain strong – and it provides a healthy outlet for her competitive spirit. Dana works as a Communications Manager for LifeWise and lives in Ballard with her family and two Australian Shepherds.