Should You Eat Fast Foods While Pregnant?

During pregnancy, providing a growing baby with the nutrients that it needs to thrive is crucial. However, cravings for certain items -- such as fast food -- can be hard to ignore. Understanding the consequences of fast food during pregnancy is crucial for women who want to ensure the health of themselves and their children.

A pregnant woman holding a hamburger in front of her stomach. (Image: serge_gorenko/iStock/Getty Images)

Junk Food Junkies

Fast foods are often touted as quick substitutes for pregnant women who don't feel like cooking at home. But, the high fat, sugar and sodium content means that junk foods -- including french fries, onion rings, hamburgers and the other products sold at fast food joints -- can be detrimental for both mother and child. Research published in 2011 in ''The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology'' suggests that the children of women who ate large amounts of junk food during pregnancy are more likely to favor high fat, high sugar diets as they age. Predisposing these children to diets high in fat and sugar may make them more likely to develop obesity and other chronic health conditions.

Maternal Health

Women who eat fast food while pregnant may actually be putting their own health at risk. Because most fast food contains high amounts of fat and calories, women who eat these foods on a regular basis may experience excessive weight gain during their pregnancy. The Utah Department of Health notes that women who gain too much extra weight during pregnancy may be at risk for gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, back aches, leg pain, the need for cesarean sections and other long-term health complications. Normal weight women should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.

Cleanliness

During pregnancy, maintaining a clean and safe environment is crucial, no matter if you eat out at fast food restaurants or prepare your own meals each day. Investigative research by a television company in China in 2013 found that ice served in certain fast food restaurants -- including KFC and Pizza Hut -- was dirtier than the toilet water found in the same facilities. Consider purchasing bottled drinks, like water or fruit juice, to avoid this possible contamination when eating out at a fast food restaurant.

Making Smart Choices

While the menus of some fast food restaurants are dominated by "junk foods" high in fat, salt and calories, others pride themselves on offering healthy options. In fact, many fast food restaurants now offer salads, soup, fresh fruits and vegetables and milk in place of soda -- all of which are smart choices for pregnant women. Chicken and fish sandwiches or hamburgers that do not feature cheese or dressing are also healthier alternatives to traditional fast food items.

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