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Taking the Fear Out of Eating During Pregnancy

The first nutrition question I’m asked by newly pregnant mamas is “What foods do I need to avoid?”

In some ways, this is understandable. Pregnancy feels rather high stakes. You don’t want to do anything to mess it up.

Perhaps you’ve been reading articles online suggesting certain foods are off limits, or maybe you recall a friend complaining that she had to steer clear of brie during her pregnancy, or maybe your clinician gave you a list of no-no foods.

Whatever the case, there’s often fear around eating during pregnancy.

The rationale for avoiding certain foods is usually due to food safety concerns (although avoidance of toxin exposure is a close second). This is all well and good except when the strict avoidance of foods leads to nutritional gaps in the diet.

I find this especially frustrating when you take a look at the relative risks of getting sick from many of these “off limits” foods only to realize that your chances of food poisoning from them are extremely slim. Furthermore, data from food safety outbreaks reveals that some of the foods most likely to get you sick aren’t on the “avoid these” lists whatsoever (and are often highly recommended during pregnancy). What gives?!

I recently had an in-depth chat with the women behind the Colorful Eats Podcast to debunk some of these food myths that are central to most prenatal nutrition advice that mamas are given.

Colorful Eats Podcast is the brainchild of dietitian Justine Campbell and nutritionist Caroline Potter. In our interview, we talk all things real food prenatal nutrition, including some deep dives into managing the sometimes bumpy road of the first trimester (hello nausea and food aversions; are we done yet?), fears surrounding what foods you “can’t” eat, and common sense discussions on food safety.

Grab a cuppa and take a listen.

Taking the Fear Out of Eating During Pregnancy – Colorful Eats Podcast (Listen here or search for Episode 98 on iTunes)

Interview Highlights

  • How I got introduced to a real food/ancestral approach waaaay back in high school (when I was vegetarian, believe it or not) and how my career ultimately led me to specialize in gestational diabetes and prenatal nutrition.
  • Why I am so disappointed by most prenatal nutrition books on the market—and why I decided to write Real Food for Pregnancy. I also share how I use modern nutrition science to bridge the gap between the conventional world of dietetics and real food/ancestral nutrition.
  • When it comes to paradigm shifts in prenatal nutrition, why backing your writing with data is so important.
  • How to manage food aversions and nausea (my top tips for getting through it, what blood sugar/insulin has to do with it, and how your thyroid hormones could be related). Caroline and I share our experience with nausea and the foods we relied on during really rough nausea days. (If you’re dealing with food aversions, which often coincide with nausea, see this post.)
  • Why learning to give up control and surrender to your body’s cues during pregnancy is great practice for motherhood.
  • How focusing on “foods to avoid” can be counterproductive to a nutrient-dense diet in pregnancy.
  • Common sense on food safety during pregnancy (why I always weigh the relative risks of getting sick from certain foods versus the nutrients you may not receive if you avoid it entirely).
  • My thoughts on screening for gestational diabetes and alternatives (why I don’t have a one size fits all recommendation, but support numerous options). More on that in this interview.
  • Why following one specific dietary program makes a glucola/glucose tolerance test less accurate (more likely to render a false positive). Can you guess which one?
  • What’s next for me? Insight into my collaboration with Ayla Barmmer, the Women’s Health Nutrition Academy, and our continuing education programs for dietitians and prenatal practitioners.

And that, my friends, is a wrap. I hope it has given you a little peace of mind about what you can or can’t eat.

Ultimately, taking the fear out of eating during pregnancy and empowering you is my goal.

If you’ve been bombarded with “don’t eat this/don’t eat that” advice about foods in pregnancy, tell me about in the comments below.

Until next week,

P.S. – Remember, if you want a research-backed look at food safety and foods to avoid in pregnancy, I’ve got you covered in chapter 4 of Real Food for Pregnancy. I share all the data on foods you’re usually told to avoid, common sense advice on food safety, and foods not typically on the conventional lists that you really should avoid. The entire book has line-by-line citations to the research for those who really like to get into the data.

Get a taste for the book before you buy. I give away the first chapter for free here and on the book website. If you love it, take your pick of the print, Kindle, or audiobook.

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.


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  1. When I was pregnant with my first, I was so stressed by the list of foods I was supposed to avoid. My diet got so restrictive and I wished I had known better to do my own research. This past pregnancy I had your book handy and everything you laid out just made so much more sense. I felt I had a much smoother pregnancy, better diet, and less stress around food because of it. <3

    • I’m so glad your mind was more at ease this pregnancy with Real Food for Pregnancy at hand to guide you!

  2. I read somewhere that pregnant women are something like 20 times more likely to get food poisoning from a particular food compared to non-pregnant people. Say if you and your husband both ate the same chicken that had a very small amount of bacteria, your husband might barely react at all, but you might get very sick because you were pregnant. I was curious if this was backed by studies? Thanks 🙂

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