How Much Soda Can You Drink When Pregnant?
If you've decided to stop drinking coffee, soda may be the next best alternative for an energy boost. But is drinking soda safe for your baby?
When you're drinking for two, you probably shouldn't be toasting your good news with a glass of champagne. But if you're looking for a good bubbly beverage to drink, is soda a good replacement?
Not necessarily. Soda can be tricky.
Many flavors, including colas, some root beers, and Mountain Dew, contain caffeine -- and most experts recommend having no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. You'd have to drink a lot of soda every day; there are 71 milligrams in a 12-ounce serving (about one can of soda), and most caffeinated sodas come in below that. In fact, a Diet Coke has 47 milligrams -- and the FDA won't allow sodas to have more than that per 12-ounce serving -- so you'd have to drink more than 50 ounces (a little more than four cans of soda) to surpass the recommended caffeine limit.
Then there's the sweetener. Full-sugared varieties fill you with chemicals and empty calories. (And chemicals and extra calories that don't give you any nutrition are a pretty poor choice when you want to deliver every possible nutrient to your baby and avoid excess weight gain.) Diet sodas, which contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, could also affect a growing fetus. "A study from 15 years ago showed that aspartame causes birth defects," says David Elmer, M.D., an ob-gyn at Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Nantucket, Massachusetts. "But if you really flesh out what that study did, it looked at a breed of rat that's prone to birth defects, and the rats were fed a dose of aspartame that you would reach if you had 70 diet sodas per day. As long as you don't drink 70 diet sodas -- and you're not a rat -- you don't have to really worry about aspartame."
The bottom line? Drinking soda when you're pregnant may not be the best thing for you -- but it certainly isn't the worst. "There's no measurable risk to having an occasional soda," Dr. Elmer says. So if you just can't kick your cola habit, it's best to indulge in small amounts. Try to limit drinking soda to one can -- or less -- per day, if you can swing it. Many experts also recommend getting your caffeine fix elsewhere, if you can. "I'd opt for a small cup of coffee or tea instead," says Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, a dietitian in New York City and author of Feed Your Family Right. Just remember to keep track of how much caffeine you're still consuming in a day. As Dr. Elmer says, "the best principle in a pregnancy is to do anything in moderation."
For more information on caffeine amounts in different types of beverages, visit the Center for Science in the Public Interest (cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm).
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