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Eating (Well) for Two

Eating (Well) For Two

Foods With an Rx

The term "comfort food" takes on a whole new meaning when you're pregnant, since certain foods or eating habits can actually help ward off some of the aches and pains of pregnancy. To quell morning sickness, heartburn and indigestion, eat small, frequent meals with bland starches, such as rice, bread or pasta, and avoid greasy or spicy foods. Herbal teas, like ginger root and lemon herb, can soothe your stomach, as can antacids, which also are a source of calcium.

Experts advise women to consult their doctor or midwife -- and find a reputable herbalist -- before using herbs while you're pregnant. Although they're natural, not all of them are harmless. Some may cause allergic reactions, and some may even be harmful to your growing fetus, especially those that act as strong laxatives or promote uterine contractions. Puls often recommends Susun Weed's "Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year" for information on herbs that can be used during pregnancy.

Constipation and hemorrhoids often experienced during pregnancy can be alleviated by a diet rich in fiber, which comes from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Leg cramps, which might be caused by a shortage of calcium or magnesium, may be minimized by adding dairy foods, dark green vegetables, calcium-enriched foods like orange juice, or even antacids.

Pregnant women also should avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs and seafood (like sushi), as well as unpasteurized juice and milk, and soft cheeses, such as brie, feta and Camembert. These foods may contain bacteria that could be hazardous to you and your baby. Try limiting junk food, too, because it fills you with empty calories; you're better off getting in those healthy foods first. "There's some room for junk food if you've already satisfied your nutritional requirements, but if you're eating a candy bar instead of yogurt everyday, that's not good," Ward says.

As for caffeine, studies haven't offered reliable evidence linking it to cancer, miscarriage or birth defects, but since caffeine can constrict blood vessels, increase heart rate and cause your body to lose water, doctors and midwives still recommend switching to decaf or cutting back to no more than 300 milligrams a day. That's the equivalent of three 8-ounce cups of coffee. Don't forget that other substances contain caffeine: A 12-ounce can of cola contains almost 50 milligrams of caffeine, and one ounce of dark chocolate has 20.

"Nutrition during pregnancy is really a matter of balance," says nutritionist Anne Dubner. "If you would usually have a sandwich for lunch, then you may want to add a glass of milk or cup of yogurt, or put a little extra meat inside." Who knows -- the eating habits you develop might be a welcome change. "During pregnancy you should eat better than you ever have," Dubner says. "Then just hold that thought -- keep it going for the rest of your life."

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