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5 diet myths in pregnancy

Woman packing a healthy lunch

Advice on what (and what not) to eat during pregnancy is everywhere: blogs, websites, neighbours and your great aunt Margaret. It can be tough to separate the truths from the myths. To help you out, we’ve asked one of our experts to share some of the most common diet-related myths she hears from patients. Daphna Steinberg, a clinical dietitian with Sunnybrook’s Women & Babies Program, sets the record straight on five common diet myths in pregnancy:

Myth 1: You can never get enough folic acid in pregnancy

“Only women who have added risk factors for neural tube defects will need to take 5mg per day of folic acid in the first trimester,” says Steinberg. Otherwise, most women only need 1mg per day of folic acid. Ideally, all women of childbearing age should be taking folic acid even before they are pregnant.

Myth 2: I should limit my salt intake to prevent high blood pressure

Restricting your salt intake any more than before you became pregnant doesn’t seem to have any impact on your blood pressure. Instead, “focus on getting enough calcium and vitamin D,” says Steinberg. Milk products include both of these, and you should aim to have 3-4 servings every day. Another good source of calcium is your prenatal multivitamin.

Myth 3: Honey is a good substitute for sugar

If you are looking to cut down the amount of sugar you eat, honey is not a good substitute, especially during pregnancy. “Honey has just as much sugar in it as sugar. Plus, honey is not always pasteurized, and pregnant women should avoid eating unpasteurized foods,” says Steinberg. Instead, use an artificial sweetener. Always be sure to check the label though, as not all sweeteners are safe for consumption during pregnancy. The Canadian Diabetes Association has a comprehensive list of sweeteners.

Myth 4: I’m eating for two

It turns out this old saying is, well, outdated. “You should be eating twice as healthy, not twice as much,” says Steinberg. Too much weight gain can lead to a big baby, and a vaginal delivery can cause trauma (like shoulder fractures and nerve damage) to a big baby.

Myth 5: I shouldn’t eat any fish

Not all fish is bad in pregnancy- in fact, it’s a great source of protein and omega-3’s. “The fish you want to avoid is raw or undercooked fish, like sushi, and fish that is high in mercury,” Steinberg says. Types of fish that are high in mercury (and therefore should be avoided) include:

  • Fresh/frozen tuna
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Escolar
  • King mackerel
  • Tilefish

Additionally, you should limit your intake of albacore “white” tuna to no more than 300 grams (6 ounces) per week.

About the author

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar

Sybil Millar is the Communications Advisor for the Ross Tilley Burn Centre, Critical Care and Infectious Diseases programs at Sunnybrook.

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