Milk and Dairy During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, milk and dairy products are very important to you and your growing baby. At least 4 servings of milk and dairy products every day is best. Not only will you get bone-strengthening calcium, you'll get a good dose of vitamins A, D and E, a range of B vitamins and plenty of protein with a serving of dairy. Of course, every food has its drawbacks, and for dairy, those are unwanted calories from saturated fat and food safety concerns. However, you'll find that it's relatively easy to get the nutritional boost that dairy products offer without the dangers and unwanted side effects.
Healthy Dairy Sources and Servings
Although dairy is an important part of most pregnancy diets, not all dairy products are created equal when it comes to health benefits. For one, some have a higher fat content than others, which can interfere with your slow and steady pregnancy weight gain. Others may bring a better variety of nutrients with a smaller serving size, which can be an efficient way to fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements.
Although serving size can differ, a single serving might consist of: 2 cups low-fat cottage cheese, 1 cup milk, 1 cup buttermilk, 1 cup yogurt or 1 3/4 cup low-fat yogurt, 2 ounces processed cheese (like American), 1 cup pudding or custard, 1 ounce grated cheese (like Parmesan or Romano), 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese (like cheddar), 1 1/2 cups ice cream or frozen yogurt. If having a bowl of cereal with milk each morning or the same low-fat yogurt as a snack every afternoon doesn't appeal to you, get creative: use evaporated milk (which has twice the calcium as regular milk) in your cooking, steamed milk in place of tea and a yogurt or sour cream dip for crispy veggies that you can nibble on throughout the day.
Sources of Dairy to Avoid
While dairy can offer all kinds of good things for your body, certain types of dairy foods can do more harm than good. Essentially, an unpasteurized dairy product can expose you and your baby to certain harmful bacteria, so it's important to read labels very closely while you're expecting. For instance, many soft cheeses, like brie and cambozola, are often unpasteurized, and these can be a vehicle for Listeria and Campylobacter pathogens. These bacteria can cause severe illness, particularly during pregnancy when your immunity is down, and they may even threaten your baby's life. Food safety during pregnancy begins with careful shopping and a good understanding of how and where bacteria tend to breed.
But the need for pasteurization reaches to non-dairy products as well. Honey and unpasteurized fruit juice can seem like harmless products, but they too can harbor dangerous bacteria. While the chances of developing a food borne illness is greatest with unpasteurized dairy, it's best to avoid all products that are not clearly marked as pasteurized until you deliver your baby.