Simple Guide to Healthy Eating Decisions During Your Pregnancy
It’s official! You’ve taken the test and confirmed you are pregnant – congratulations! Now it’s time to start thinking about how you need to take care of that growing baby. Specifically, we need to talk about healthy eating decisions while you are pregnant.
A common misconception is that you are eating for two. This isn’t quite true and it doesn’t mean you can double your intake or go crazy the next few months. Remember, eating responsibly is the best way to ensure your baby has the valuable nutrients she needs while your body is working overtime.
General Guidelines for Healthy Eating by Trimester
These are meant to be guidelines and you’ll need to work with your physician or nutritionist to address any challenges unique to your situation.
You’re going to be hit with all sorts of cravings while you make this journey, so it’s important to understand what your body needs versus what you may want.
How Many Calories Do I need
- First Trimester: Your body is already working hard to prepare itself and your baby for the coming months. Many nutritionists recommend you increase your daily intake by about 150 calories.
- Second Trimester: Your daily intake should increase by approximately 300 calories.
- Third Trimester: Increase your daily intake by 300 – 500 calories per day.
Focus on Nutritional Foods During Your Pregnancy
Don’t focus strictly on calorie counts. The number of calories you consume is really only a portion of the big picture. What you consume is what really matters now! It’s critical that you get the proper nutrients to help your baby reach its full potential.
Don’t take this as an endorsement to start a new diet where you get to enjoy a Snickers bar with every meal (that’s 215 calories for each Snicker’s bar by the way). Instead, you need to ensure you add more of the foods that bring nutritional value. Perhaps the occasional Snickers bar is okay so long as you maintain some moderation.
Quality over Quantity
Be on the lookout for these ingredients as you stock your refrigerator and pantry:
- Dairy / Calcium: You are going to need to make an effort to boost your calcium intake levels. If you have any dietary restrictions as a result of lactose intolerance or a diet that restricts your intake of dairy products, be sure to find a nutritional supplement. Your baby needs this to help build bones.
- Protein: Obvious sources of protein include meat; however, you can also find protein in legumes if you happen to follow a vegetarian diet. Pregnant women have plenty of diet options when it comes to nutrition. Your proteins are also a great source of zinc.
- Iron: This nutrient is used in blood as a means of delivering oxygen throughout the body. The amount of blood in your body increases substantially during pregnancy which is why you need the additional iron. The good news is that you can find iron in plenty of food options. Iron can be found in olives, asparagus, leeks, scallions, beans, and of course meat. You can help your body absorb these nutrients by combining it with vitamin C. You will probably want to increase your fiber intake as well. This will help offset the symptoms of constipation brought on by the increased iron.
- Vitamin B6: You can find this in many of the same sources where you find proteins.
- Folic Acid: Your physician has likely already directed you to take a daily folic acid supplement. This nutrient is critical to your baby’s neural development. Talk to your doctor about what dosage is right for you if you haven’t already. Skipping out on this nutrient can raise the risk of neural defects, preterm birth, and reduced birth weight. You can add folic acid to your diet by eating more leafy green veggies, as well as fortified breads, cereals, and orange juice.
Eating foods with high nutritional value while sensibly watching your calorie intake is a great way to ensure your baby has what it needs as it grows. This approach also helps ward off some forms of gestational diabetes caused by excessive weight gain.
Many women experience heartburn as they reach the third trimester. You can thank your hormones for that. Eating less at each sitting but more times over the day is one way you may be able to help find some relief. Also, be sure to lose the fatty or spicy foods. Your husband’s famous chili may be best served in after baby is born.
Foods to Avoid During Your Pregnancy
There are a number of reasons why you’d want to avoid these food choices during your pregnancy.
Potential Sources of Listeria:
- Soft cheeses.
- Raw sushi / undercooked meat.
- Undercooked eggs.
- Raw dough.
- Heavily processed foods.
- Unpasteurized dairy products.
Potential Sources of Mercury:
- Swordfish, shark, and mackerel.
- Farm-raised salmon may be a concern as well – speak with your healthcare professional if concerned.
Other Sources of Bacteria:
- Raw vegetable sprouts including clover, alfalfa, and radishes.
- Caffeine – talk to your health care provider regarding the recommended limits for caffeine intake.
- Alcohol – all forms of alcohol should be avoided and remember this can come from fermented fruit juices that have not been pasteurized as well.
You can consult with your health care provider and possibly a dietician. They can help address any concerns that may be unique to your circumstances.
Finally, remember as you continue this journey that healthy eating is about quality over quantity. That said, don’t be afraid to give in to your cravings on occasion!