The old adage that ‘we are what we eat’ has always been true. And it even more true for pregnant women who are not only feeding their bodies but nourishing the bodies of their growing babies. These nutrients determine how your baby will grow, flourish, gain weight and develop neurological cells.
Start Before You Get Pregnant
As soon as you begin to think about having a baby you should also think about your lifestyle choices, including the food you put into your body on a daily basis. Good nutrition during pregnancy is one big gift that you can give your child. You can learn the about the five food groups and the nutrients that are important to your health and the health of your child.
Your nutrition during pregnancy will change slightly as your needs and your own tolerance for foods will change. There are some basic rules that you should always follow throughout all three of your trimesters. You should eat balanced meals or at least balance your foods throughout the day. If you crave protein at lunch balance that with fruits and vegetables throughout the afternoon.
Don’t skip meals
In fact, in the first trimester you should probably practice grazing since it will help to decrease the effects of morning sickness. Drink lots of water each day to stay very hydrated. During pregnancy your body adds more fluids and blood – you can help your body to maintain a healthy pregnancy by maintaining your hydration.
Your nutrition during pregnancy should include enough calcium to support your body and the growing child you are carrying. The current recommendation for calcium intake is 1200 mg per day. Although dairy products carry a nice portion of calcium they are also a protein, which inhibits the absorption of calcium.
A better option is plant based calcium from broccoli and spinach – washed and uncooked. There are other good sources such as salmon, kale, beans, fortified orange juice and calcium supplements. Talk to your doctor about supplementation if you need it.
Folic acid is another essential nutrient for the neurological health of your baby. But it is most important before a woman even knows she is pregnant to help develop the baby’s brain and spinal cord. For this reason any woman who suspects she may become pregnant should take a multivitamin with folic acid or should eat foods high in folic acid. Some good food sources for folic acid are:
- peanut butter
- fortified cereal and bread.
Iron is an important nutrient for increasing blood volume and preventing anemia, so make sure to eat iron rich foods daily. During pregnancy you’ll need more iron than when you’re not pregnant. A pregnant woman needs 27 mg iron a day, while a breastfeeding mom needs 15 mg iron a day. Source
Food sources of iron include:
Lean beef, poultry, sardines, clams, egg yolk, collard, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, spinach, turnip, cabbage, lettuce, beans, peas, lentils, soy beans, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, oatmeal and fortified cereals.
Nutrition During Pregnancy: Calories
During your first trimester your first concern may be battling morning sickness. There are specific strategies to help battle morning sickness that really doesn’t happen just in the morning. During the second trimester you’ll have to increase your daily intake by about 200-300 calories. These calories should come from protein, grains, fruits and vegetables.
You may find that as your digestive system slows down in the second trimester that certain foods cause gas or cause discomfort. Keep track of those foods and you can eliminate them as long as you continue to get enough of the vitamins and minerals they provide. Supplement your needs with prenatal vitamins.
Nutrition during pregnancy in the third trimester your baby will more than triple his weight. You’ll feel fuller faster because of the decreased room in your pelvis but you still have to eat enough calories from well balanced meals. The best way to accommodate this is to eat small meals more often during the day.
Pregnancy Nutrition: Weight Gain
When considering their nutrition during pregnancy some women are concerned about gaining too much weight. Remember that the health of your body and your baby depends upon what foods you put into your mouth.
How much weight you gain during your pregnancy depends upon your weight beforehand. Normally a healthy gain is between 20 and 35 pounds. If you start out overweight you should gain on the lower end to help the delivery and the health of the baby.
Fish To Avoid While Pregnant
A precaution for nutrition during pregnancy involves the eating of fish. Swordfish, king mackerel, shark or tile-fish contain high amounts of mercury that can harm a child’s brain or nervous system – either unborn or nursing. Women who are pregnant, want to become pregnant or are nursing shouldn’t eat these fish.
When you’re pregnant with twins or other multiples, you’ll likely need more calories, vitamins and minerals than when you’re carrying 1 baby. Be sure to consult your doctor on your daily nutritional needs.