Pregnancy diet myths are endless.
There are so many contradictory stories going round that it can be hard to tell what’s really true, meaning your pregnancy can become more confusing than it needs to be!
The lists of foods that expectant mothers should make sure they eat, or avoid, are riddled with myths.
We know from experience that dealing with all these food myths during pregnancy can get in the way of enjoying a healthy diet for you and your baby.
We’ve debunked a few of these pregnancy diet myths in a previous blog post, but there are so many out there that we thought it was time to do a little more digging and put some of these old wives’ tales to bed!
The sushi pregnancy myth
Staying away from sushi would suck - after all it makes a great sharing plate and something you and your partner can enjoy together during lockdown.
Luckily you don’t have to!
Fish is packed with Omega 3 so is actually great for your baby’s brain development.
The only thing you need to be aware of is checking the type of fish and its source and should be from a good source, and should have been frozen to kill off any parasites.
Types of fish that you do need to refrain from eating however are shark, swordfish, mackerel, tilefish & marlin.
The peanut allergy myth
Eating peanuts whilst pregnant will not make your baby allergic to nuts. And they’re actually a really healthy snack.
The only time you should keep away from peanuts during pregnancy is if you already have a nut allergy.
The caffeine pregnancy myth
One pregnancy myth that disappoints a lot of expectant mothers is hearing that they won’t be able to drink tea or coffee whilst pregnant.
Luckily a total avoidance of caffeine is a myth.
Pregnant women should however drink a little less if they are a caffeine fiend.
The recommended amount you can safely drink each day is 200mg – that’s about 2 mugs of instant coffee per day, or one mug of fresh pressed coffee.
Eating-for-two pregnancy myth
Another myth we’re sorry to bust is the eating for two myth.
Unfortunately, pregnancy is not a chance to pig out and eat double the amount you normally would, the only time you should increase your calorie intake is in the third trimester – and then it’s only by about an extra 200 calories a day. Sorry!
Body reserves pregnancy myth
Another pregnancy diet myth is that your unborn baby will be reliant on the nutrient reserves in your body and get everything they need, regardless of what you eat.
This would be very convenient but unfortunately is not true.
What you eat will make a difference to the quality of nutrition your baby receives, so a balanced diet is important.
Is it too late to start eating healthy once you’re pregnant? No! Whilst it would be ideal to switch to a healthy diet as soon as you realise you are expecting, improving your diet at any time during your pregnancy will be beneficial. So, no excuses!
Avoid sugar pregnancy myth
Sugar pregnancy myths can be worrying for anyone with a sweet tooth. But the rumour that pregnant women should avoid all sweets isn’t true. If a little sweet snack will improve your mood – go for it! (in moderation!)
And guess what, chocolate, in moderation, is actually good for you whilst pregnant. We wrote a blog about this recently if you want more info and some healthy chocolate recipes.
Eating meat is a must pregnancy myth
There is a myth that you must eat meat during pregnancy in order to stay healthy. But a plant-based diet with plenty of protein can be just as healthy.
Chances are if you’re a veggie you already know this. If in doubt, or you're on a more extreme diet just check with your doctor whether you should be taking any supplements.
Avoid Cheese pregnancy myth
The ‘No Cheese’ pregnancy myth. We spoke about this in a past blog, but let’s reiterate for all the cheese loving mothers out there – you can eat cheese whilst pregnant!
The only cheeses you need to avoid are soft blue cheeses (such as Danish blue), mould-ripened soft cheeses with a white coating on the outside (such as brie and camembert) and unpasteurised cheeses (such as soft goats’ cheese). All the rest you can enjoy whenever you want!
Food colour affects skin tone pregnancy myth
There is a myth in some places that eating light coloured foods, and avoiding dark ones, will result in a fair baby.
If this is something you would be concerned about just remember that skin colour is genetic, all skin tones are beautiful and no food will change how your baby looks!
Some fruits can cause miscarriage pregnancy myth
There are a couple of myths out there that some fruits can cause miscarriage. These foods include papaya, pineapple and green bananas – but needless to say, there is no evidence for any of these claims.
Of course certain foods can cause a miscarriage such as undercooked meat, raw eggs and unpasteurised dairy products, but fruits – well, we recommend you continue to eat these as part of your essential 5-a-day!
The herbal tea pregnancy myth
There are certain herbal teas and tonics that old myths say will make your baby more intelligent. But there’s nothing to support this either!
The whole milk pregnancy myth
Some people advise drinking whole milk during pregnancy is better for you, saying that it’s more nutritious than low fat or skimmed versions.
However, all these milk types have the same nutritional value, although skimmed and low-fat milks have less fat – making them healthier options for expecting mothers.
The alcohol pregnancy myth
Whilst it’s common knowledge that expectant mothers shouldn’t drink alcohol, it can sometimes be rumoured that it’s OK to drink one glass of wine.
Unfortunately, this is a myth, there is really no safe amount of alcohol to consume whilst pregnant, so it’s best to just avoid alcohol altogether.
Remember to avoid alcohol whilst breastfeeding too as it can get into your breast milk.
The baby’s taste buds pregnancy myth
There’s another myth that says what you eat during pregnancy can influence your baby’s palette.
The food you eat while pregnant has an important impact on the nutrients that your baby gets, and consequently its development, but there’s no evidence that it will impact their taste buds at all.
The hot dog pregnancy myth
One pregnancy myth about food states that expectant mothers shouldn’t eat hot dogs.
There are a few realistic concerns here – you need to be certain it (and any other meat you eat) is well cooked to avoid infections, and perhaps you should look for more nutritious alternatives to hot dogs too.
However, if you fancy one during your pregnancy just check that it is well cooked and it won’t do you any harm.
Along the same vein it’s often said that pregnant women should avoid deli meats.
Again, this is about avoiding the bacteria listeria. This can cause an illness called Listeriosis, which is harmful to babies. Unfortunately pregnant women are more susceptible to Listeriosis.
The bacteria can be killed by pasteurisation or cooking, so it is best to avoid uncooked meats or unpasteurised dairy – but a thoroughly cooked hot dog will be fine!
Avoiding spicy food pregnancy myth
Spicy foods are surrounded by myth during pregnancy. Supposedly they can burn the baby’s eyes resulting in blindness, induce labour or cause miscarriages.
There is no evidence that spicy foods can affect your baby, so don’t worry if you enjoy a hot dish! And we haven’t seen any evidence that they will bring on your labour either so if you fancy a plate of spicy food as the big day draws close, we say go for it!
The watermelon pregnancy myth
Surprisingly the watermelon is another food surrounded by pregnancy myth. It has been claimed that watermelon can cause Gestational Diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes is a common problem in pregnancy so mothers are advised to avoid foods with a high glycaemic load – one serving of watermelon has a glycaemic load of about 5, so unless you plan on eating a whole melon you should be absolutely fine.
Another myth claims that watermelon causes pregnancy weight gain, however watermelon isn’t as sugary as it’s taste would suggest, and it's actually a hydrating low-calorie snack.
We have also heard the myth that watermelon flushes out all the nutrients in your body. The fluids in watermelon actually improve nutritional intake and prevent dehydration, so nothing to worry about there either!
Pregnancy diet myths from overseas
Being the wonderful multi-cultural country that we are, we have inherited a lot of pregnancy food myths from overseas, which now seem like everyday folklore to expectant mums-to-be.
Here are just a few pregnancy food myths from overseas that we dispel to put your mind at ease.
Chinese pregnancy myths
There's a Chinese pregnancy food myth that claims eating crab will make your baby mischievous. This isn’t true, but shellfish is best avoided as it can cause food poisoning.
In Japan on the other hand, the myth is that spicy foods will give your baby a bad temper. This is not true either!
There are actually lots of Chinese pregnancy food myths.
One rooted in traditional Chinese medicine is that pregnant women should avoid some foods that are ‘cold’ (yin) or ‘wet-hot’ (poisonous qualities).
This means foods like ice cream, watermelon, dark chocolate and cold beverages should be avoided to maintain harmony in the body and prevent miscarriage or developmental problems with the foetus.
Chinese folklore also states that some symbolic foods must be avoided.
For instance eating mutton during pregnancy could lead to the baby being born with epilepsy (the Cantonese term for this is faat yeung, which sounds like the word for sheep); rabbit meat causes a cleft lip; and snake can lead to a baby’s skin taking on a scaly appearance.
None of these have scientific evidence to support them, but are deeply believed traditional myths. We suggest you take them with a pinch of salt – but it’s always fun to see what other cultures believe isn’t it?
Vietnamese pregnancy myths
Another country with loads of pregnancy diet myths is Vietnam. So, let’s bust a few of them too.
The Vietnamese believe that eating lots of snails whilst pregnant will make your baby a drooler, drinking coconut increases amniotic fluid, eating morning glory will stop your c-section scar from healing well and that sour food or drinks will make your bladder remain weak after birth.
They also believe that eating lots of Baluts (half-hatched eggs) will give your baby a lustrous head of hair and that drinking too much coffee will give your baby brown skin.
Another, more unusual diet pregnancy myth, is that for a healthy pregnancy you should eat the four legs of a black dog, or the bones of a black cat, and that if you eat papaya your baby will get jaundice.
Luckily, there is no evidence that we can find to support any of these Vietnamese pregnancy myths.
Nigerian pregnancy myths
Nigeria is well known for its many pregnancy food myths too. We can’t list them all, but one you may have heard of is that a pregnant or breastfeeding women should not eat eggs as they will lead to sickness and jaundice once the baby is born.
Of course common sense tells us that really eggs are a great protein-packed snack so long as they’re cooked well, but it’s good to be reminded of this now and again!
Philippines pregnancy myths
In the Philippines there is a pregnancy food myth that eating a twin banana may lead to twins (some versions say normal twins, some warn of Siamese twins).
However twin development in your womb is totally up to chance (with a little help from genetics sometimes of course) so we recommend you carry on munching on those bananas if you want to.
Hispanic pregnancy myths
A myth stemming from Hispanic beliefs suggests if you don’t eat a lot of fruit during pregnancy your baby will be dirty.
There is really no way for you baby to be born dirty as it’s very well protected in your tummy, but eating fresh fruit whilst pregnant is always a good idea!
Another myth is that eating cheese or dairy whilst pregnant will cause your baby to be born with cradle cap.
Cradle cap is not influenced by what a mother eats, it’s just an excess of oil on the baby’s scalp and is harmless. Plus dairy food provides essential calcium for your growing baby!
This last one we love – if a pregnant mum doesn't satisfy her food cravings, the baby will be born with a dark mark on their nose. This may be a myth, but we agree you should be catered to, after all you are growing a baby in there!
If we’ve missed any pregnancy diet myths off the list, please let us know below, so we can share them with our other mums-to-be!