A wholesome, healthy diet is important every day, but it becomes crucial during pregnancy. A well-balanced diet during pregnancy keeps mom in good health and is essential to the proper development of the fetus. While there is not set “diet” to follow during pregnancy, there are guidelines that you can follow to guarantee that you re doing everything that you can to eat well for the development of the baby. Whether a strict diet or a go with the flow regimen is the choice, it is important to remember two key terms: quality and variety. Eating high quality food (i.e. fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and choosing a wide variety of foods will insure that mom-to-be is getting all of the essential vitamins needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy. If you are pregnant and are interested in what you should be eating wile pregnant, then continue reading:
There is a lot of chatter about how much a pregnant woman should be eating, but much of the advice given (mostly by other women) is not very useful. There is no need to start ‘eating for two’ or to consume an entire pepperoni pizza, a jar of pickles and a gallon of ice cream because the baby told you to do so. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no evidence to prove that cravings are induced by physical need, rather, they are induced by the social expectations of other women(1).
During the first trimester, a woman can continue to eat the same amount of food as she did prior to becoming pregnant. In addition, this is a great time for expecting mothers to adjust their diet to eliminate toxins (mainly caffeine, but nicotine if you smoke) and junk food, replacing them with wholesome foods (explained further in the article). Moreover, this is a great time to increase water consumption to 100-160 ounces of fluid per day(2). By increasing the consumption of water and maintaining it throughout the pregnancy will insure that the amniotic fluid is being replaced and that mom will feel hydrated(1,2).
At the mark of the second trimester, an increase in appetite may or may not occur. Either way, the doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend that mothers increase their caloric intake by 300 calories(1). For example, expectant mothers can add a midday snack to their day. Think healthy snacks such as nuts and fruit or yogurt.
The third trimester is an exciting milestone because the baby within feels “real” and the mental countdown to the due date is coming to a close. Additionally, this is when the baby starts to add weight to its frame in the form of fat. Most women during their third trimester should add an additional 150-300 calories to their diet.
While eating healthy food may be a no-brainier to most pregnant women, it is often asked “What and How much of everything should be consume?” By following these simple to remember guidelines, any expectant mother should be able to maintain a healthy, whole foods diet that will build a strong and smart baby(and mommy!).
According to the experts, expectant mothers should be consuming 65-80 grams of protein per day(3). Protein helps develop the fetal brain and increases moms blood supply, too. No expectant mother wants to count the grams of protein, so it is best to remember that she aim to consume three servings of a high protein food each day. Some ideas are beans, nuts, lean meats, and fatty fish such as salmon.
Calcium is essential before, during, and after the pregnancy. Expectant mothers should aim to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day, which helps mom’s body regulate fluids and build strong baby bones(1,2,3). Aiming for three to four calcium rich sources each day will help mom get enough calcium. For those that consume dairy, this should not be a problem; consuming yogurt, milk, or other dairy products will help you get the calcium that you need. For those that do not/cannot consume dairy there are other ways to get rich sources of calcium. For example, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, tofu, fortified orange juice, and almonds will help surpass that daily requirement(3).
Iron prevents anemia and increases blood volume, which is crucial to a successful pregnancy and postpartum experience. The American Pregnancy Association (APA), women who had high iron levels throughout pregnancy were less likely to developed postpartum stress(3). Sources of iron can be found in whole grains, spinach, and lean meats. Aim for 27 milligrams or three servings of iron rich foods per day(2).
Women hear ear fulls about folic acid, yet it is still the one vitamin that the modern woman is deficient in, which is unfortunate because it is key to healthy fetal development(specifically the neural tube and brain)(3). Expectant mothers should aim for 600-800 micrograms of this vitamin per day. Sources of folic acid include fortified whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and chickpeas(2,3).
While this seems like a lot to keep track of, expectant mothers can meet these daily goals by keeping the following in mind:
Consume 1 prenatal vitamin,2 servings of healthy fats, 3 servings of protein,4 servings of fruit, 5 servings of vegetables, and 6 servings of grains each day to meet the needs of a developing fetus.
What Not to Eat
So now that you know what to, what should you be avoiding during pregnancy? It is simple, really. Stay away from the things that impact your well-being and sense of judgment- alcohol, nicotine, and illegal drugs. In addition, high caffeine intakes are related to miscarriages, but there is now evidence against consuming low doses of caffeine each day(3). Moreover, avoid the following foods:
Raw Eggs, Seafood, Meat: Uncooked meat and seafood, and raw eggs should be avoided because it may contain harmful invaders such as toxoplasmosis and salmonella(while they only make you sick, it is potentially fatal to the unborn child).
High Mercury Fish: Fish with high levels of mercury such as swordfish, shark and king mackerel should be avoided. There is evidence linked to high mercury fish and delayed development in children(3). Canned tuna can be eaten, but no more than once per week.
Deli Meat: Deli meat is known to cause miscarriages and birth defects in newborns. Cold deli meat may contain listeria, which can cause blood infection so it is best to avoid eating deli meat(3). If you must have a deli sandwich, insist that the meat be heated up until it is steaming, which kills any bacteria that may be present in the food.
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience. It teaches women the impact that they have on another individual. Eating right for baby while in utero will not only be great for baby’s development, but it will instill long-lasting healthy eating habits for the entire family. Think of this healthy pregnancy diet as the first step in the long road of parenting.