The basic principles of healthy eating remain the same in pregnancy, plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, whole grains and lean sources of protein. Well balanced meals are key, as well as limiting or avoiding processed foods such as “junk foods” and “fast foods”. It is important to make healthier food choices at each meal. Start by replacing white bread with whole grain, white pasta with whole wheat, white rice with brown. During pregnancy you only need about 250 to 300 calories more a day, for an approximate total of 2400 calories. These extra calories should be from foods that contain the nutrients needed during pregnancy.
Nutrients to include in your diet
Folate and folic acid: Folate is a B vitamin if taken before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy helps prevent serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord such as spina bifida. Lack of folate throughout pregnancy may increase the risk of babies having low birth weight, poor growth and/or preterm delivery. In addition to the 400-800 micrograms in your prenatal vitamin, choose foods high in folic acid. These include fortified whole grain cereals, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, legumes and nuts.
Calcium: Both you and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth. In addition, your baby needs calcium to develop a healthy heart, nerves and muscles. If you are not getting adequate calcium, 1000 milligrams a day, the baby will take the calcium from your bones, which may negatively impact your own health. The best food sources of calcium are milk, skim is best, and other dairy products. Additional sources are dark green leafy vegetables, and calcium fortified whole grain cereals and breads. Vitamin D is very important in helping your body absorb calcium. Adequate amounts can be found in fortified milk, eggs, fish and sunshine.
Iron: Your need for iron doubles during pregnancy. 30 milligrams of iron is recommended daily. Your body uses iron to form red blood cells that carry oxygen to your tissues and the baby. Without enough iron you may become fatigued, more prone to infections, develop anemia and increase your risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. Good food sources of iron include lean red meat, poultry, fish, spinach, broccoli, collard greens, lima beans, lentils, iron enriched whole grain breads and cereals, nuts and dried fruits. Cooking in an iron skillet also adds up to 80% more iron to foods
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is important to aid in the body’s ability to absorb iron, be sure to add a source of vitamin C along with foods that contain iron and iron supplements. Vitamin C is also important in maintaining healthy gums, teeth, and bones. Foods high in vitamin C are citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, and tomatoes.
Protein: Protein is essential to your baby’s growth, especially during the second and third trimester when the baby is growing more rapidly. During pregnancy you need an average of 70 grams of protein a day. Great sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dried beans and peas, dairy products, tofu and peanut butter.
Food items to limit during pregnancy
Seafood: Fish and shellfish are an excellent source of protein, omega- 3 fatty acids, and iron. Omega-3’s are present in oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines. Recently there have been studies that have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids may promote your baby’s brain development, eyes, and nervous system. However, some fish and shellfish contain dangerous levels of mercury that may damage your baby’s developing nervous system. It is recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that you eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shell fish that are lower in mercury. Examples of fish with lower mercury are salmon, shrimp, and catfish. Choose canned light tuna, which has less mercury than albacore.
Food items to avoid during pregnancy
Seafood choices high in mercury: Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, or striped bass; these fish are high in mercury. To avoid harmful bacteria or viruses avoid raw fish, raw sushi and shell fish, and anything caught in polluted waters.
Unpasteurized Dairy Products: Avoid any unpasteurized products. Soft cheeses to avoid: brie, feta, blue veined cheeses, camembert, and Mexican-style cheeses like queso blanco, queso fresco. They can harbor listeria, a rare bacteria, especially harmful to pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Undercooked meats and poultry: Avoid undercooked meats and poultry, and practice good kitchen hygiene. Heat hotdogs and lunch meat to steaming hot to avoid listeria infecton.
Caffeine: Recent studies suggest that pregnant woman should avoid caffeine altogether. Caffeine crosses the placenta and can affect your baby’s heart rate. Some studies suggest that too much caffeine can be associated with decrease in birth weight, and others show an increased risk of miscarriage.
Today is the perfect day to start making healthier choices for you and your baby.