Healthy foods are the cornerstone of pregnancy nutrition. After all, the food you eat is your baby’s only source of nutrition. Here’s help on making every bite count.
The basic principles of a healthy non-pregnant diet apply to pregnancy as well – eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. However, overall energy needs and a few nutrients deserve special attention in a pregnancy diet.
The biggest mistake I see many women make stems from the “eating for two” mindset that drives them to overeat and gain excess weight. During the first trimester, it is wise to rid your diet of empty calorie foods, high fat foods and refined sugars, such as candy, soda, and baked goods, and instead focus on foods that provide the highest nutrient value for their calories such as green, leafy vegetables, beans and legumes and fresh fruits.
Very few additional calories are needed during first trimester- REALLY! During your second and third trimesters, add an additional 300 calories per day, which is equal to an extra glass of skim milk and half of a sandwich made with lean protein. These food choices also help to meet the 70 grams of protein per day requirement for pregnant women. Other good protein choices include eggs, hummus, nuts, beans, lean meats, salmon (also rich in omega -3 fatty acids), soy products and cheese.
Another nutrient needed in higher amounts during pregnancy is folate (1000 mcG/day), which is found in fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, citrus fruits and dried beans and peas.
Calcium (1000 mg/day) is needed in higher amounts during pregnancy for development of bones and teeth. This nutrient can be found in dairy products, fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green vegetables, and salmon.
Increased iron (27mg/day) intake is recommended during pregnancy to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. Lean meat, poultry, fish, fortified cereals, nuts and dried fruits are all good food sources. To enhance the absorption of iron from plant foods and supplements, pair them with food or drink high in vitamin C, such as orange or tomato juice or strawberries.
Even if you eat healthy every day, you still may miss out on key nutrients, so taking a daily prenatal vitamin can help fill any gaps.
Don’t forget to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day of water, and even more if engaged in extensive physical activity. Water may help carry nutrients from the food you eat to your baby, prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, excessive swelling and urinary tract infections.
Ideally, one should start eating a healthy diet prior to pregnancy, but the good news is that it’s never too late to start. And once you start, you should always continue through breast feeding and beyond to instill in your family that healthy eating is an important part of a healthy body. For more on this topic, check out our healthy pregnancy guide or learn about maternity services at Summa.
Marianne Fisher, R.D.L.D.
Summa Health System