The secret’s out! My husband, Craig, and I are expecting our first child, a baby boy, on July 1, 2018.  Like most first-time parents, we could not be more excited—and scared! Being the one growing our little critter, I’ve been more cautious about what I eat and how certain foods can affect my body and the little one inside of it.

From sushi to cocktails and cold deli meat to cookie dough, being a pregnant woman comes with its sacrifices. I know providing good nutrition is an important part of my health and child’s development, and my doctor’s diet advice was surprisingly simple—eat lean proteins like red meat, and more fruits and vegetables.

I could see how a first-time pregnant mom could get confused and overwhelmed by what she reads. There’s no shortage of blogs and articles on the internet telling pregnant women to engage in “clean eating” or an “organic-only” diet.  What’s the right decision? This is where I trust my doctor’s advice instead of the “online” voices.

Whether it’s organic or conventional, it’s important to wash your fruits and veggies. Pesticide residues in both of these production types are federally regulated and found in negligible amounts, meaning the food you purchase from the store is safe to eat.  But all produce, whether in a store or at a local farmers market, are handled by people and should be washed before eating due to possible bacteria. Organic food is often fertilized by manure, so even those veggies deserve a good washing. And of course, it’s imperative for anyone to make sure they’re thoroughly washing their hands and cleaning surfaces after handling raw meat.

I know there’s a lot of misinformation online about “hormones in meat,” but in talking with farmers and researchers, I’ve learned despite the labels you see at the grocery store, FDA regulations prohibit any use of hormones in poultry and pork, therefore, all pork and poultry is eligible to be labeled with “raised without hormones.” Veterinary protocols mandate meat from cattle given hormones is tested, regulated and proven safe. But let me tell you another reason why “hormone-free beef” labels are not an essential on my shopping list: A pregnant woman like me can produce 19.6 million nanograms (a unit of measurement equal to one-billionth of a gram) of estrogen per day, while a three-ounce serving of beef can contain .9 ng to 1.9 ng of estrogen. Compare that to the 2,000 ng of estrogen in cabbage and really, people should be more afraid of me and my out-of-whack hormones than those found in their steak and veggies!

I’ve already heard it more than once—dig in, you’re eating for two. But my doctors have said that’s not a good frame of mind for a healthy pregnancy. I’m already going to see some numbers on the scale I’ve never seen before in these coming months! Instead, I focus on animal proteins that will provide the nutrients baby and I need without the added calories, such as that 3-oz piece of beef (recommended well-done for pregnant women), which provides half of your daily protein needs at only 150 calories. I love peanuts, but the same amount of protein derived from them equals a whopping 564 calories.

Eggs are another good source of protein, and a recent study by Cornell University is taking a closer look at the role of the nutrient choline—found in eggs, poultry and lean red meat—which contributes to prenatal brain development. The study suggests recommendations for choline should increase to improve a baby’s cognitive ability. Another reason to enjoy eggs for breakfast!

There’s so many things to think about when you’re expecting your first baby, but I’ve promised myself not to drive myself too crazy over food. As I continue to fill my shopping cart with meat and dairy like nearly 100 percent of other Iowans, I’ll make sure I’m choosing foods that provide my body with fuel and nutrients, and maybe even an indulgence or two.  Because sometimes, mama just needs some Junior Mints.

By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau's Public Relations Specialist.