Your diet during pregnancy affects your baby’s growth and development, as well as your own health. A balanced diet with nutritious foods is the healthiest option for both mom and baby. You don’t need to document and monitor every single item you eat during your pregnancy, but pay attention to the overall balance and nutritional level of your diet.
Most women need a few extra calories during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. According to BabyCenter.com, a woman who is within a normal weight range can use an extra 300 calories daily in the second trimester and 450 calories extra during the third trimester. If you are underweight, you might need more calories for a healthy pregnancy. A woman who is overweight doesn’t need quite as many extra calories. If you’re concerned about a specific daily calorie amount, consult with your personal physician, who can help you figure out a goal based on your personal situation.
Certain nutrients become more important during pregnancy to ensure proper development of your baby. Folate and folic acid help establish proper neural tube development, a process that occurs at the beginning of the pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins include folic acid. Other sources include fortified cereals, spinach, asparagus, beans and oranges. Calcium keeps your bones strong and supports the development of your baby’s bones and teeth. Protein supports the general growth of your baby and is key in the second and third trimester. Iron supports the increased blood volume during pregnancy. You need about twice as much iron as usual while pregnant, according to BabyCenter. Anemia is a possibility if you don’t get enough iron.
A pregnancy diet that includes a variety of foods stands the best chance at supplying the body with the necessary nutrients. Choose fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors for the widest range of nutrients. Whole grains, lean meats, poultry and low-fat dairy products contribute to a healthy diet during pregnancy. You might notice foods you once loved no longer sound appealing. This gives you the opportunity to expand your tastes and try new foods.
Foods to Avoid
While variety is good, certain foods present risks to you or your baby during pregnancy. Alcohol makes its way to the baby and can cause birth defects or disabilities in children. Caffeine is considered safe in small doses, but cutting back is a safe option, particularly if you consume a lot of caffeine. Raw seafood, unpasteurized milk products and undercooked meat fall on the list of foods to avoid. Fish offers healthy nutrients but can contain high mercury levels. Limit fish to a total of 12 ounces per week to limit mercury exposure.
A prenatal vitamin serves as a backup plan if your diet lacks certain nutrients on a particular day. Talk to your doctor to find a prenatal vitamin ideal for you. Don’t stress too much if you miss out on a particular nutrient. Focus on an overall healthy diet unless you notice that you consistently omit a particular type of food or nutrient. This may be particularly true during the first trimester when morning sickness and food aversions often prevent pregnant women from eating much.