By: Erinna Cooper, MSN, RNC-OB

You are what you eat and when you are pregnant, what you eat will be closely tied with the development of your baby. Let’s take a look at some of the best foods to choose – and which to avoid:

Eat this: Hard cheeses, such as Swiss or cheddar. Semi-soft cheeses such as mozzarella are safe to consume as well. Pasteurized processed cheese slices and spreads such as cream cheese or cottage cheese may also be safely consumed.

Not that: Soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses and Mexican style cheeses, such as queso fresco, as they do not state they are pasteurized.  The CDC recommends avoiding soft cheese to reduce your risk of contracting Listeriosis, sickness caused by ingesting unpasteurized dairy products.  Always read the label carefully and consult your care provider if you have any dietary concerns.

Eat this: Salmon, trout, sardines, and anchovies. These fish are low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for your baby’s development and your own nutrition. Make sure to cook the fish to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not that:  Swordfish, mackerel, sea bass, and shark.  These fish are high in mercury and can be harmful to your baby’s health.  The FDA produced a detailed resource of fish to eat and avoid. Visit their website to view the list and consult your provider with specific concerns.

Eat this: Eggs – fully cooked.  High in protein and nutrients, eggs should be an essential part of your diet.  Only purchase refrigerated eggs and only eat fully cooked egg dishes, such as scrambled.

Not that: Eggs – undercooked.  Eggs that are not fully cooked have the risk of salmonella contamination.  Toss any eggs cracked or unclean, never eat runny eggs (such as eggs Benedict), and avoid homemade ice cream and raw baking batter.

Eat this: Milk or sparkling water flavored with fruit.  Milk increases your calcium intake – just make sure the milk is pasteurized. Water or sparkling water infused with fruit or 100% fruit juice is a healthy alternative to soda.

Not that: Energy drinks, herbal teas, sodas.  High in caffeine, empty calories, and chemicals, soft and energy drinks can pose a threat to you and your baby’s health.  Herbal teas are naturally caffeine free, however, there is a lack of data available on the effect of herbal teas and the developing baby. Consult your care provider if you are considering a specific herbal tea to include in your diet.

Eat this: Leafy greens, such as lettuce, kale, or spinach.  Chock full of folic acid and vitamin K, these leafy greens are essential for your baby’s health. Make sure to fully wash the greens before your prepare your meal.

Not that: Uncooked sprouts, such as alfalfa, mung bean, or radish.  E. coli bacteria can seep into sprout seeds through cracks in the shell and cause serious harm to your baby. If you want to eat sprouts, fully cook them by steaming to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the bacteria.

Ask your health provider if you’ll need to take supplements, such as prenatal vitamins or calcium and iron supplements. Remember, moderation is key: too much of any vitamin or nutrient can cause adverse effects to both you and your baby.  As your pregnancy progresses, you may find that you prefer smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.  Consult with your provider and discuss a pattern that will work for you and still meet you and your baby’s nutritional needs.

Erinna Cooper, MSN, RNC-OB is the Director of the Birthing Center for Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Located at 17 Belmont Avenue, Brattleboro, VT, the Birthing Center provides a wide range of childbirth options for each patient’s unique needs, from prenatal care and labor to education and support groups.  It’s your bump, your baby, your way.  To learn more or schedule a visit, call (802) 257-8226 or visit bmhvt.org.