Guide to Pregnancy Nutrition
Pregnancy is a beautiful, yet challenging, time in many women’s lives. Along with the joys and discomforts that pregnancy brings is the challenge to eat well. Pregnancy is probably the most important time of your life to ensure you’re eating a well-balanced diet, and your diet during pregnancy is one of the biggest influences on your child’s overall health and wellness. Whether this is your first pregnancy or your fifth, this guide to pregnancy nutrition will help you make wise food choices throughout your entire pregnancy. No matter if you’re trying to get pregnant, newly pregnant, or about to pop, it’s never too late to improve your diet during pregnancy and make the most of pregnancy nutrition! Read on for some dos, don’ts, and general pregnancy nutrition tips.
The Importance of a Balanced and Nutritious Pregnancy Diet
Babies get the fuel to grow and develop from your nutrition. Protein is a key component of their fetal body systems, so getting a substantial amount of protein each day is a big part of proper pregnancy nutrition. Carbohydrates are an energy source for both you and baby, so making sure you’re eating enough healthy carbohydrates, like whole grains and fruit, is vital. Healthy fats play a big role in the development of baby’s nervous system, as well as for vitamin absorption. While you shouldn’t ever overdo it on fats, it’s important to consume the recommended amount of healthy fats throughout your pregnancy.
Everyone knows that weight gain is a part of pregnancy, and since you don’t want to gain too much or too little, having a well-balanced pregnancy diet is incredibly important. One of the greatest misconceptions about pregnancy nutrition is that a mother is “eating for two.” While an increase in calories should occur at a certain point, it is nowhere near double the normal amount. Most women need about 300 extra calories per day in their second and third trimesters, but those should be nutritious calories rather than empty ones.
Dos of Pregnancy Nutrition
During your pregnancy, you’ll likely get a ton of information and advice from various people about your diet during pregnancy. It’s important to take their advice with a grain of salt and consult the experts and your doctor or midwife to ensure you are consuming the best diet for you and your baby. Here are some big “dos” for your diet during pregnancy.
- DO eat a balanced diet – aim for 2-4 servings of fruit, 4 servings of vegetables, 6-11 ounces of grains (at least half should be whole grains), 3 servings of protein (lean and cooked well-done), and 4 servings of dairy each day.
- DO eat seafood, but in moderation. Fish is packed full of protein, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are vital to a healthy pregnancy. While you should avoid fish high in mercury and eat no more than 12 ounces of fish a week, eating well-cooked, pregnancy-safe fish is a definite DO!
- DO consume as many vitamins and minerals in your food as possible, in addition to taking a prenatal multivitamin. Folic acid, calcium, and iron are generally considered the most important for pregnant women.
- DO try to eat more “whole” foods and avoid eating too many processed foods.
- DO vary the color of your foods by eating a “rainbow,” as they say. Different colors foods have different vitamins and minerals in them, so if you’re not into researching the nutritional makeup of everything you eat, just aim to have a colorful plate at every meal.
Don’ts of Pregnancy Nutrition
Fear can be a huge issue during pregnancy, so rather than nitpicking and panicking about every little thing, we simply recommend staying as healthy as possible and making the best decisions you can for you and your baby. That being said, there are a handful of things you should absolutely stay away from during pregnancy, as numerous studies have shown that they can be dangerous for you and your baby.
- DON’T drink a lot of caffeine. Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get a different amount of how much caffeine is okay and how much isn’t. Avoiding caffeine as much as possible is in your best interest, as caffeine has been linked to increased risk of miscarriage, higher blood pressure, and a higher heart rate. If you HAVE to have caffeine, try to keep it under 200 mg a day, and remember that it can be found in more than just coffee. Teas, chocolate, medicine, and ice cream can all have varying amounts of caffeine.
- DON’T eat deli meat, unless it is thoroughly heated before consuming. This includes smoked salmon, hot dogs, sausage, and any other cured meats.
- DON’T eat unpasteurized cheeses or milk products. Pasteurization is a process that heats milk products and kills any potentially harmful bacteria. Avoid soft cheeses (Brie, blue cheese, feta, most cheese dip) and raw or otherwise unpasteurized milk.
- DON’T eat raw or undercooked meat. This includes sushi, hamburgers, and any other type of meat. Undercooked and raw meat can be contaminated with listeria and other bacteria that can lead to extreme sickness and complications during pregnancy.
- DON’T drink alcohol. While some healthcare providers may tell you that small amounts are okay, the risks associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy are simply not worth it.
- DON’T eat under-cooked, raw, or runny eggs. This is the same concept as eating raw or under-cooked meat—you increase your risk of bacteria-induced sickness when consuming under-cooked eggs. This includes, unfortunately, not licking the spoon when making cakes, brownies, and cookies.
In general, aiming for a healthy, balanced pregnancy diet is not as hard as it may seem. Eat a variety of foods, don’t overdo it, and avoid the big no-nos. If you do that, healthy pregnancy nutrition will be easy to come by!