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High Sodium Diet Dangers in Pregnancy

Elizabeth Keefe | 2, October 2013


Most expectant mothers want to provide their growing baby with the best nutrition possible. While you may not have watched what you ate before, now is the time to look at the foods you're ingesting and decide, "Is this the best choice to help me and baby during pregnancy"?

How can too much sodium affect me and my baby?

Sodium is a nutrient found naturally that is necessary for many bodily functions, so you do want to make that sure you get enough. However, too much sodium has been know to cause adverse health affects such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and other health issues. According to the National Institutes of Health, excess sodium may contributes to increased swelling, and high blood pressure. Both of these conditions expectant Moms want to avoid—especially in the last trimester!

Additionally, high blood pressure in pregnancy has been shown to cause heart disease later in life, according to a study conducted by the American Heart Association. Lowering sodium intake will not help prevent pre-eclampsia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, if you do develop high blood pressure, your risk for developing pre-eclampsia during pregnancy is increased.

How much sodium is safe?

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, the recommended sodium intake for all adults is 2,300mg per day or less. However, if you have high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, or are African American, 1,500mg is recommended. While these are just guidelines, it best to ask your obstetrician about the amount of sodium intake that is right for you.

What should I cut out of my diet?

While not all prepackaged foods are bad for expectant women, there are some that should be completely banned from your pantry. Prepackaged foods are those that come already prepared and packaged in a can, box, bag or other container. The debate over prepackaged foods' nutritional quality has been going on in America for some time now, especially due their sodium content. Some products contain over 1000mg of sodium, or almost half of your daily allowance. That doesn't leave much room for the other meals you will need to eat during the day!

Over the years, companies have been creating new products to allow people to choose whether they want to eat healthy or not. Lower sodium products have been introduced to the market, and really do not taste all that bad! When shopping, be sure to read each and every nutrition label to check the sodium content. If the sodium is at a safe level for your daily nutrition plan, go ahead and indulge. If it is not, resist the urge and try to find a healthier alternative.

Here are some products you should try to avoid eating regularly, unless of course their nutrition label reflects that they are indeed lower sodium:

  • Frozen Meals
  • Ready-to-eat boxed meals
  • Soups (low sodium should be OK, but be sure to check the label)
  • Fast food
  • Vegetable Juice
  • Canned vegetables, beans, and soups
  • Packages Deli Meat

Switching to home made meals is a better option

When selecting foods for your pregnancy nutrition plan, the best choice is always to go homemade. By making your meals from scratch you can control all the ingredients that go into the finished product. Homemade meals do not have to be difficult to make, and some can be prepared ahead of time and frozen for a ready-made easy to prepare meal. Here are a few healthy meal ideas to help you get started:

  • Chili - Use dried kidney beans and lean meats.
  • Baked chicken breast with couscous, black beans and corn.
  • Home made turkey noodle soup with salad and small slice of french bread.
  • Stuffed peppers made with brown rice and lean ground beef.
  • Grilled London broil, sweet potato and green beans.
  • Home made hummus with pita bread.

Cooking Tips:

  • Do not add sodium to your meals. Some salt can be added after the fact if need be—especially if you have not met your daily requirement needs.
  • Keep in mind that 1/4 teaspoon of salt equals 600mg sodium.
  • Use low or no sodium seasonings to be used on meats, poultry and fish.
  • Use whole grains only including whole grain flour, rice and pastas.
  • Add plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to every meal.
  • Ingredients used should be as close to nature as possible.

By preparing meals yourself, you can rest assured that are providing your baby with the best possible start in life. These changes to your diet do not need to stop once you give birth either. Consider these changes a major overhaul of your diet that you plan to stick with for life. Your body and your baby will thank you for it!

Related Articles

Are Diet Foods Safe During Pregnancy?

The Morning Sickness Diet

Is It Safe to Drink Diet Soda While Pregnant?

Calcium Needs in Pregnancy

Is Caffeine Safe During Pregnancy?


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