Surprising healthy foods you should limit when you're pregnant

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Chances are, you know to steer clear of deli meat and raw tuna if you’re pregnant. But, according to dietitian and culinary nutritionist Jackie Topol, MS, RD, you have to watch out for what you’re putting in your morning smoothie and where you’re getting your lunchtime salad, too. Could your healthy habits actually be harmful?

Here, Topol—who happens to be pregnant herself—gives the verdict on everything from stress-reducing adaptogens to fish. If you’ve found yourself wondering if you can have coffee or matcha in the morning or what type of fish is okay to eat, keep reading for the honest truth.

Scroll down to find out what’s safe—and what’s not safe—to eat when you’re pregnant.

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coffee while pregnant
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Coffee and matcha

If you relied on a cup of coffee to get yourself moving in the AM before your pregnancy, good news: Topol says you don’t have to give it up completely. “You can have up to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is about a 12-ounce cup of coffee. That said, it does depend on where the coffee is being sourced because some have higher caffeine levels than others.” This is one time when having your coffee on the weaker side is a perk, so to speak.

Similarly, Topol gives matcha the green light. “The main thing to be mindful of is, again, the caffeine,” she says, reiterating that you want to keep overall caffeine consumption under 200 milligrams. (The average cup of matcha contains 30 to 70 milligrams of caffeine.) Considering how sluggish pregnancy can make you feel, aren’t you glad you don’t have to give up the goods completely?

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adaptogens while pregnant
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Adaptogens and CBD

If you put spirulina, maca, ashwaghanda, or other adaptogens in your coffee or smoothie, Topol says pregnancy is a time to press pause on the otherwise healthy habit. “You should really discuss any herbal supplements you’re taking with your doctor, but my recommendation is that they should be avoided because they could potentially have some negative effects,” she says. “The truth is, there aren’t any studies done on whether adaptogens are harmful or not for pregnant women to take because it would be unethical to perform them.” Her advice follows for cannabidiol (CBD), too.

Of course, just because something is an herb doesn’t mean it’s bad for pregnancy. In fact, Topol says raspberry leaf tea in particular has been linked to preparing the uterus for delivery, leading to an easier labor.

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Fish

“High-mercury fish are the ones to avoid when you’re pregnant,” Topol advises on this protein source. That means albacore and bigeye tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel are all off the menu. But you don’t have to give up fish completely. Two to three servings of low-mercury fish a week are recommended, so fill up on salmon, cod, and sole instead. Or, you can opt for vegan fish, which is now “a thing.” 

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salad bar while pregnant
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Salad bars and nightshades

A bowl of dark greens and rainbow-colored veggies is full of healthy nutrients that will boost your pregnancy and, according to Topol, there’s no need to steer clear of nightshades like eggplant and tomato. “There is no research that shows there are any issues with nightshades for pregnant women,” she says.

Continuing to fill up on salads is a healthy habit that you can keep up during your pregnancy—unless you’re getting your lunch from a salad bar. “You never know if the food is being kept at the right temperature or if someone is touching the food with dirty hands—both ways you can pick up unwanted bacteria,” she says. It’s gross to think about even if you aren’t pregnant, but if you are, it could be detrimental on a whole other level.

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green juices while pregnant
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Smoothies and green juices

If you make your own smoothies at home or go to a place where they’re made in an average-size blender, Topol says this is one healthy habit that’s safe to continue, but if your smoothie has juice in it, make sure it’s pasteurized. If you’re more of a juice shop type of person, she offers up a warning: “I would stay away from places that have unpasteurized juices or juices served out of those big vats because you don’t know how often they’re being cleaned,” she says.

The danger here is the same reason she recommends avoiding salad bars: Unwanted bacteria could be lurking inside. If you’re craving juice during your pregnancy, you’re better off making it at home or buying it bottled.

The major food rule to live by when you’re pregnant is, when in doubt, don’t eat it. “For many of these newly trendy foods, drinks, and herbs, the research just isn’t there,” Topol says. You’ll sleep sounder if you play it safe—that is as sound as you can while housing a little human inside.

Now that you know the food rules, here’s what to keep in mind when it comes to working out while pregnant. Plus, 10 crazy—but super—common things that will happen to your body.

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