Eating Well in Pregnancy, Part Two: Anti-Nutrition and Empty Calorie Food

Tuesday’s post by guest author Laurie K. Meher discussed what to eat during pregnancy.  Today she’ll talk about what not to eat. Meher is a Holistic Nutritionist and Mom specializing in family nutrition.   She shares recipes and information on baby and toddler food on her blog:

When you are pregnant it is important to remember that your baby will take all of its nutrients from you, Mom.   While it is comforting to know that your baby will always get what it needs, you need to take care of yourself.  Otherwise you will find that once baby arrives you will not have the basics of healthy nutrition to get you through some long nights, a few emotional days and many exciting times.

The following foods need to be avoided!  Not only are they empty calories, but for some of them they are harmful because they deplete your sources of healthy nutrition.

Anti-Nutrition foods are those that deplete your body of vitamins or minerals.  Soft drinks are a perfect example as they deplete your body of calcium.

Empty calories describe food that give you calories, but offer no nutrition, like a donut.  Choose food that is delicious and nutritious; fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and homemade treats.
soft drink in glass with ice

Soft Drinks – I am often asked if it is okay to drink soft drinks–‘It’s just Ginger Ale!’ The truth is that all soft drinks are harmful. They have a high level of phosphoric acid which disrupts the calcium balance within your body and actually causes your body to excrete calcium.  Substitute with mineral water and juice for the same fizziness, but none of the damage.

Caffeine – Giving up that cup of coffee or tea is going to be hard, but it is important to closely monitor your caffeine intake.  During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters the ‘half-life’ of caffeine extends.  This means that while usually it might take 2 to 4 hours to get the caffeine out of your system, when you are pregnant it takes up to 10 hours. Since caffeine does cross the placenta, your baby is processing that coffee for 10 hours as well.  Coffee is also a diuretic, which means that it causes you to lose water. Try water-processed decaffeinated coffee or better yet, have a glass of water.
artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes (Aspartame, Splenda, nutrasweet, etc.) There are many studies that say sweeteners are not harmful while others that say otherwise.  I do not believe that any fake food or chemicals are good for you and they definitely are not good for your child.  Some studies have shown that these chemicals alter brain growth, and while others may dispute this fact.  Until more conclusive evidence is available, I urge you to remove these from your diet.

Vitamin A – Even things that you might think are good for you can be harmful!  Taking a Vitamin A supplement can cause birth defects.  Don’t worry if there is some vitamin A in your prenatal supplement; it is probably within the healthy limit for you and your baby or it is from a plant source (listed as beta carotene) or is lower than 10,000 I.U.  Foods that are high in Vitamin A are not harmful.

Nitrites – Nitrites are used to process meats and keep them from spoiling; they are found in cold cuts.  Try to avoid these kinds of meats or splurge on organic, nitrite-free versions.  While it may seem easy to grab and eat a cold cut sandwich, nitrites are carcinogenic and could have a harmful effect on your baby.  If you are craving cold cuts, you may require some extra sodium in your diet; get your sodium from natural sources.

Raw animal products (sushi, raw milk, raw cheese) Raw animal products are not recommended for people with compromised immune systems.  While you are pregnant, your body is focussing on your baby and this is why you may find you get colds more frequently.  Stay away from these foods as harmful bacteria reside within them and you may not have the immune system to keep them at bay.

What about Peanuts? If you have any kind of an allergy, it is best to avoid that food when you are pregnant.  While there is evidence showing that eating peanuts in pregnancy may not be the cause of the allergy, it is too soon to take a strong stance.  I would preach the ‘better safe than sorry’ route at this time.  Besides actually a legume, peanuts are grown in the ground and as such absorb many of the chemicals from the pesticides sprayed over the crops.  They also can house a mold called aflatoxin with is carcinogenic.  Almonds, cashews, walnuts and other nuts all have healthy fat and nutrients that are essential to a well-rounded diet, so be sure to include them, but do not go overboard; one handful a day is enough.


What can I drink? Water really is the best choice.  Juice is okay occasionally because there is no fibre in juice the sugar hits your blood stream too quickly, so try and eat more fruit rather than drink the juice. We have already covered removing coffee and soft drinks from your diet.  If you like milk, continue drinking it, but drink 2%; any lower and you are unable to absorb the calcium from the dairy.  Alcohol is not recommended at any time during pregnancy but mineral water and juice make a good ‘Mommy Cocktail’ those nights you are out.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow’s post will conclude this series on eating well during pregnancy. Leg cramps? Back aches? Meher will address these common pregnancy concerns.


  1. When I was pregnant, I made the decision to take omega-3 pills for the EPA and the DHA. I really think it made a huge difference in the easy of my pregnancy.

  2. Wow, what a great series! I would never have guessed that a vitamin supplement could cause birth defects. Are there others we should avoid besides Vitamin A?

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