You are now eating for two, congratulations! Good nutrition during pregnancy is a must for you and your developing baby. For first time moms, it might come as a little overwhelming, thinking of what to start eating and what to stop eating altogether. Do not stress, mommies! Read on and learn about how to have a balanced diet during pregnancy and what it takes to ensure a healthy growing baby.
Having a well-balanced diet before and during pregnancy helps your baby to have a strong start in life. And while you might not have the healthiest diet before pregnancy, it is definitely not too late to start during pregnancy. Though you are eating for your baby as well now, you only need to increase your calorie intake by 300 calories. People’s common misconception is that a pregnant woman should eat lots of food, which is wrong. Eating too much and gaining unnecessary weight is not healthy at all.
Your body has increased nutritional needs now that you are pregnant. To support your body, you require more micronutrients and macronutrients. Micronutrients are dietary components (vitamins and minerals) which are only required in small amounts. Macronutrients are nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) that provide calories or energy.
• Protein is critical for the proper growth of the fetal tissue and the brain. It also helps your breasts and uterine tissue to grow during pregnancy and contributes to the increasing supply of your blood. 75-100 grams of protein per day is recommended by experts.
Examples of sources of protein: fish/seafood, chicken, lean beef, pork, lamb, liver, tofu, nuts.
• Calcium helps build your baby’s bones and regulates your body’s use of fluids. The daily requirement of calcium is around 1000 milligrams during pregnancy.
Examples of sources of calcium: milk, eggs, yogurt, pasteurized cheese, tofu, almonds, white beans, cabbage, salmon, turnip greens.
• Iron increases blood flow; this ensures that enough oxygen is supplied to both you and your baby. 27 milligrams per day is the ideal intake of a pregnant woman.
An example of sources of iron: collard, turnip, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, bread, cornmeal, cereal, oatmeal, beef, seafood, poultry.
• Folate/Folic Acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects. These are major birth defects that affect the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Experts recommend 600-800 micrograms daily.
Examples of sources of folate/folic acid: collard, turnip, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, orange, strawberry, mango, lemon, tomato, grapefruit, kiwi, melon.
• Vitamin C will promote wound healing, tooth and bone development, and metabolic processes. Experts suggest that the recommended intake is 85 milligrams per day.
An example of sources of vitamin c: orange, strawberry, mango, lemon, tomato, grapefruit, kiwi, melon, potato, peppers.
More Daily Recommendations: Include two to three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruits, at least three servings of whole grain bread, cereals, pasta, and two to three servings of lean protein.
For information about what foods to avoid, see here.
Are cravings normal? Yes, cravings are normal. Many women will have cravings when pregnant, but there are others who do not get cravings at all (which is still normal). It is okay to indulge and satisfy your cravings as long as it fits into your healthy diet and does not occur too often. Food aversion usually comes with food craving and is perfectly normal as well.
Pica is a disorder that causes cravings for items that contain no nutritional value. When one has the desire to eat ice, paint chips, clay, laundry detergent, cigarette, ashes, or starch, among other strange substances, consult a doctor immediately. Eating non-food items is extremely harmful to you and your baby and may be a sign of nutritional deficiency.
Gaining just the right amount of weight by having a healthy and balanced diet is a sure sign of a healthy growing baby.
Weight gain should be slow and steady. One should gain about 2 to 4 pounds during your first three months of pregnancy and 1 pound a week for the remainder of the pregnancy. A woman of average weight before pregnancy can expect to gain 15 to 35 pounds during the pregnancy. You may need to gain more or less depending on whether you are underweight or overweight when you get pregnant. Recommendations also differ if you are carrying more than one baby.
What if you are gaining too much weight? Do not try losing weight and or stop gaining weight altogether. Slow down the process of gaining weight and try to get it back on track.
• Remember to eat just the right amount of portion size and try to avoid second helpings.
• Limit the intake of sweets and high-calorie foods.
What if I am not gaining enough weight? Every woman differs from each other, thus having a different rate of weight gain. Talk to your doctor about this concern. Nausea and morning sickness can hinder weight gain. Consider these diet changes to help gain weight:
• Eat more frequently.
• Choose nutrient and calorically dense foods such as dried fruit, nuts, crackers with peanut butter, and ice cream.
• Add a little extra cheese, honey, margarine, or sugar to the foods you are eating.
Now that you are familiar with your nutritional needs during pregnancy, it is important that you re-evaluate your diet and ensure a proper meal plan. You can definitely work with your doctor to create a more specific meal plan based on your age, weight, and medical history.