Pregnancy is an exciting time in life, but it can also be overwhelming. With all the recommendations and advice around nutrition, it can be hard to know what’s best for you and your baby. Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is essential for the health of both mother and baby. Here are some tips for creating a balanced and healthy diet for pregnancy newbies that will help ensure the health of your growing little one.
Goals for Healthy Eating When Pregnant
Good nutrition during pregnancy, and enough of it, is very important for your baby to grow and develop. You should consume about 300 more calories per day (600 extra per day if you’re carrying twins)than you did before you became pregnant.
Although nausea and vomiting during the first few months of pregnancy can make this difficult, try to eat a well-balanced diet and take prenatal vitamins. Here are some recommendations to keep you and your baby healthy.
- First, focus on getting good-quality calories. Many pregnant women feel hungry because their bodies need extra energy to support their growing babies. Make sure to choose nutrient-dense foods as much as possible to get the most out of each calorie. Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Recommended daily servings include 6-11 servings of breads and grains, two to four servings of fruit, four or more servings of vegetables, four servings of dairy products, and three servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts). Consume fats and sweets sparingly.
- Choose foods high in fibre that are enriched, such as whole-grain bread, cereals, beans, pasta and rice, and fruits and vegetables. Although it’s best to get your fibre from foods, fibre supplements can help you get the necessary amount. Examples include psyllium and methylcellulose. Talk with your doctor before starting any supplements. If you take a fibre supplement, increase the amount you take slowly. This can help prevent gas and cramping. Drinking enough liquids is important when you increase your fibre intake.
- Protein drives blood production, especially when it has iron that your body easily absorbs, like from red meats, chicken, and shellfish. Your blood volume increases during pregnancy to supply your baby’s blood. Opt for healthy proteins that aren’t high in fat, like lean meats, fish, poultry, tofu and other soy products, beans, nuts, and egg whites.
- You and your babies need some fats to stay healthy. Just remember to pick the healthy, unsaturated kind like vegetable oils, olive oil, and nuts.
- Ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals in your daily diet while pregnant. It would be best to take a prenatal vitamin supplement to ensure you consistently get enough daily vitamins and minerals. Your doctor can recommend an over-the-counter brand or prescribe a prenatal vitamin.
- Eat and drink at least four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods daily to help ensure you get 1,000-1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium in your diet during pregnancy.
- Eat at least three servings of iron-rich foods, such as lean meats, spinach, beans, and breakfast cereals, daily to ensure you get 27 milligrams (mg) of iron daily.
- While pregnant, you will need 220 micrograms (mcg) of iodine a day to help ensure your baby’s brain and nervous system development. Don’t get more than 1,100 mcg a day. Choose from a variety of dairy products — milk, cheese (especially cottage cheese), yoghurt — as well as baked potatoes, cooked navy beans, and limited amounts — 8 to 12 ounces per week — of seafood such as cod, salmon, and shrimp.
- Choose at least one good source of vitamin C every day, such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, honeydew, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green or red peppers, tomatoes, and mustard greens. It makes it easier for your body to absorb iron from plant foods, builds strong bones and teeth, boosts immunity, and keeps blood vessels strong and red blood cells healthy. Pregnant women need 80-85 mg of vitamin C a day. Don’t exceed 2,000 mg.
- Choose at least one good source of folate daily, like dark green leafy vegetables, veal, and legumes (lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas). Every pregnant woman needs at least 0.64 mg (about 600 mcg) of daily folate to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Supplements called folic acid can be an important option when you are pregnant.
- Choose at least one source of vitamin A every other day. Sources of vitamin A include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach, water squash, turnip greens, beet greens, apricots, and cantaloupe.
- Stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help with digestion, reduce fatigue and keep your cravings in check. Be sure to avoid caffeine when possible since this has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage or preterm labour in some cases. If you consume caffeinated drinks, do so sparingly (one cup per day) and always consult your healthcare provider first if you have any questions or concerns about this topic.
Foods to Avoid When Pregnant
- Avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol has been linked to premature delivery, intellectual disability, congenital disabilities, and low birthweight babies. To relax and prevent any discomfort, you can try acupuncture instead. Call us if you need more information about this traditional Chinese medicine practice.
- Limit caffeine to 300 mg per day. The caffeine content in various drinks depends on the beans or leaves used and how it was prepared. On average, an 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 150 mg of caffeine, while black tea typically has about 80 mg. A 12-ounce glass of caffeinated soda contains anywhere from 30-60 mg of caffeine. Remember, chocolate (especially dark chocolate) contains caffeine — sometimes a significant amount.
- The use of saccharin is strongly discouraged during pregnancy because it can cross the placenta and may remain in fetal tissues. But, the use of other non-nutritive or artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA is acceptable during pregnancy. These FDA-approved sweeteners include aspartame (Equal or NutraSweet), acesulfame-K (Sunett), and sucralose (Splenda). These sweeteners are considered safe in moderation, so talk with your healthcare provider about how much non-nutritive sweetener is acceptable during pregnancy.
- Decrease the total amount of fat to 30% or less of your total daily calories. For a person eating 2000 calories a day, this would be 65 grams of fat or less per day.
- Limit cholesterol intake to 300 mg or less per day.
- Do not eat shark, swordfish, farmed salmon (wild is OK), king mackerel, or tilefish (also called white snapper) because they contain high levels of mercury. Too much mercury can hurt your baby’s central nervous system.
- Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese. These cheeses are often unpasteurized and may cause Listeria infection. There’s no need to avoid hard cheese, processed cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, or yoghurt.
- Avoid raw fish, especially shellfish like oysters and clams.
What to Eat When Pregnant and Don’t Feel Well
During pregnancy, you may have morning sickness, diarrhoea, or constipation. You may find it hard to keep food down or feel too sick even to eat at all. Here are some suggestions:
- Morning sickness: Eat crackers, cereal, or pretzels before bed; eat small, frequent meals throughout the day; avoid fatty, fried, spicy, and greasy foods.
- Constipation: Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Also, drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. Taking fibre supplements may also help. Check with your doctor first.
- Diarrhoea: Eat more foods that contain pectin and gums (two types of dietary fibre) to help absorb excess water. These foods include applesauce, bananas, white rice, oatmeal, and refined wheat bread.
- Heartburn: Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day; try drinking milk before eating; and limit caffeinated foods and beverages, citric beverages, and spicy foods.
It’s important to remember that what works best for other expecting mothers may not be exactly right for everyone as every pregnancy journey is unique – this includes dietary needs too! Be sure to listen to what works best for your body while being mindful that nutrition plays an important role during pregnancy when it comes to implementing a healthy diet plan tailored specifically for you!