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Myths of Food Restriction During Pregnancy

Q: Can I drink coffee or caffeine-containing drinks during pregnancy?

  • Coffee and tea contain caffeine. Too much caffeine may increase the risk of low birth weight and miscarriage

  • Caffeine level of some brewed coffee and Hong Kong-style milk tea in local restaurants is high. One may get too much caffeine by drinking a cup. You are advised to limit coffee and strong tea drinking and consider the decaffeinated options

  • You should also limit the intake of other foods and drinks containing caffeine, e.g. soft drinks, chocolates or tea. To reduce the risk of too much caffeine, you should also avoid energy drinks

Q: Do I need formula milk designed for pregnant women?

  • A balanced diet with a variety of foods can meet the nutritional requirements of pregnancy. You need to top up for iron, iodine or other micronutrients, you can consider taking prenatal multivitamin/multimineral supplements

  • Maternal milk formulae have higher calorie content than low fat milk. Extra calories may cause excessive weight gain. Consider taking milk formula only when you have difficulty in taking other foods

Q: Is it true that avoidance of seafood and beef during pregnancy and breastfeeding can prevent my baby from developing eczema?

  • Current scientific researches show that avoidance of milk, beef, peanuts, seafood and other potential “food allergens” does not protect the babies from developing atopic dermatitis (eczema) or other allergic diseases

  • On the contrary, dietary restriction may lead to poor maternal weight gain and increase the risk of nutritional deficiency in mothers and babies

  • Therefore, unless you are allergic to beef and seafood etc., avoidance is unnecessary during pregnancy or breastfeeding

Q. Does restricting water intake and limiting salt in diet help relieve leg and hand swelling in late pregnancy?

  • The limbs swell up because of water retention which happens as a result of the increase in female sex hormones level after mid pregnancy. It is not related to how much water you drink or salt you take

  • A healthy pregnant woman does not need to restrict water intake

  • However, you should limit the daily salt intake to no more than 5 g* (i.e. a teaspoon) irrespective of whether you have leg or hand swelling. Since most foods contain some quantity of salt, you should use less salt or condiment when cooking

  • *5g of salt equals to 2000 mg of sodium


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