Wanting what’s best for your baby is only natural so choosing the right foods while you are pregnant is very important. Healthy foods are the foundation of pregnancy nutrition. What you eat is what your baby eats, smart food choices during pregnancy can help promote your babies growth and development. When you become pregnant you may begin to have questions about your nutrition like, “Do I really need to eat for two?” “How should my diet change now that I am pregnant?” “What other nutrients do I need for a healthy pregnancy?” All of these are great questions, and they can all be answered by taking a closer look at what nutrients your body will need to accommodate you and your growing baby over the next nine months.
Let’s start with the first question. “Do I really need to eat for two?” The answer is NO!!! Although you are pregnant and you will need to take in extra calories you do not need to take in twice as much food. In fact you will only need about 300 extra calories a day, 500 if you exercise on a regular basis. A slice of whole wheat bread has 110 calories so getting these 300-500 extra calories doesn’t take a lot of food. Choose wisely on where you get your extra calories from.
The need to change your diet depends on how you were eating before becoming pregnant. If you are eating a healthy diet before you conceive, you may only need to make a few changes to meet the nutritional needs of pregnancy. The key to a healthy pregnancy is WHAT you eat not how much. Pregnant mommies need even more of the important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that they were consuming pre-pregnancy. To begin let’s look at dairy products.
Dairy can be a healthy part of your diet. It is needed to build strong bones and teeth. Not enough dairy in your diet can lead to the baby taking calcium from your bones leaving you depleted of this vital nutrient and putting you at a higher risk for osteoporosis later in life. You should aim for 1,000 milligrams a day which is equal to about four servings. Great sources of calcium include skim milk, mozzarella and cottage cheese as well as low fat yogurt. Avoid anything made with unpasteurized milk as this may lead to food borne illness. Dairy products to avoid include brie, feta, blue cheese, and Mexican style chesses such as queso fresco and queso de hoja.
Protein is imperative to your developing baby especially during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, are all part of this group and very beneficial to you and your growing baby. They all have a high level of protein as well as B vitamins and iron. Protein helps repair cells as the body changes. Seafood is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to the baby’s brain development. However some fish and shellfish contain high levels of mercury which may damage the developing nervous system of your fetus. Some fish to avoid include swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish. Fish that are good for you include shrimp, salmon, Pollock and catfish. Be sure to avoid all raw fish and shellfish that have not been cooked such as oysters and clams. When it comes to meat and poultry you want to avoid bacterial food poisoning so cook all of your meat and poultry fully. The juices should run clear. Hot dogs and deli meat carry a higher risk so cook both until they are steaming hot or avoid them all together.
Grains are the next important nutrient for a healthy pregnancy. Grains are very important because they provide essential carbohydrates which are your body’s main source of energy. Grains also contain iron, fiber, B vitamins, minerals and protein all of which contribute to a healthy growing baby. Aim for 6 servings a day and be sure to check the label for serving sizes. Choose things such as whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and whole-grain cereal.
Fruits and Vegetables contain a variety of vitamins and minerals crucial to proper fetal development. Vitamin C helps absorb iron. Dark greens have vitamin A, iron and foliate. You should aim for 3 servings of fruit and 4 servings of vegetables a day.
Foliate (a B vitamin) prevents neural tube defects as well as abnormalities in the brain and spinal cord. Not enough foliate may also cause pour fetal growth, low birth weights and preterm delivery. Women should aim for 1 milligram of foliate/folic acid before conception and during pregnancy. Orange juice, strawberries, and avocados as well as pinto beans, chick peas and peanuts are all good sources of foliate. In addition to foliate, iron is very important. It is necessary for red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy your need for iron nearly doubles due to the fact that your body needs more blood to accommodate the changes that are taking place and your baby must make his or her entire blood supply. Broccoli, spinach and asparagus as well as beef, pork and seafood are all good sources of iron.
Now that we have talked about all of the important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that you need during pregnancy let’s talk about some of the things that you and your baby can do without. Caffeine is a good place to start. Caffeine is ok in moderation, but you should not have more than 300 milligrams a day or about 2 cups of coffee. It is thought that caffeine may cross the placenta and affect the baby’s heart rate and breathing. It may also cause a small decrease in birth weight. When it comes to herbal tea not enough is known. Thus they should be avoided unless your health care provider states otherwise. Alcohol is the last thing that we need to talk about. Although one drink is not likely to harm your baby, no amount of alcohol has been deemed safe during pregnancy so avoided it altogether.
Eating healthy when pregnant is key to having a healthy baby. There are no special tricks or secrets. Just eat plenty of fruits and veggies as well as whole grains and lean protein and you and you and your baby will be happy and healthy. Good luck and congratulations.