Tips for Healthy Eating While Pregnant
February 25, 2017
Healthy eating is vital during pregnancy. Whether you are experiencing intense cravings or the worst nausea of your life, it’s still important to consume foods that will be beneficial both to you and to your baby. Here are some tips and ideas for healthy eating while pregnant.
Up your caloric intake, but not drastically.
You’ve probably heard that the old adage “when you’re pregnant, you’re eating for two” is incorrect, but you might not know how much more you should be eating during pregnancy. You should be consuming about 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant. Which really isn’t that much more. And be sure to make those calories count, by selecting a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
Take a comprehensive prenatal vitamin.
To ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your daily diet, take a prenatal vitamin. Make sure that whatever vitamin you choose contains folic acid, calcium and iron. If you’re unsure of which brand to select, consult your doctor or midwife for over-the-counter recommendations or a prescription. Your doctor can also help you decide if you need to take nutrient-specific supplements in addition to your prenatal vitamins.
Eat foods rich in folate/folic acid.
The consumption of folate (found naturally in food) and folic acid (folate’s synthetic counterpart found in vitamins) is important because it helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. Along with choosing a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, you should also choose at least one good source of folate every day, such as dark green leafy vegetables and legumes (such as lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas). Pregnant women should aim to consume at least 600 mcg of folate/folic acid per day.
Increase lean protein consumption.
Protein is also a vital part of fetal development, so look for lean protein sources to help up your protein intake to 40-70 grams per day, depending on your pre-baby weight. Foods like Greek yogurt, legumes, salmon and chicken are all good sources of protein. Quinoa is also an amazing source of protein, and is an easy substitute for rice.
Minimize caffeine consumption and eliminate alcohol consumption.
When consumed, caffeine passes through the placenta and into the amniotic fluid and your baby’s bloodstream, which means your baby is exposed to its effects much longer than you are. Because of this, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that pregnant women limit their caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg per day. Regarding alcohol, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), has concluded that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy. Because the exact amount of alcohol that causes Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) is unknown and variable, the safest choice is to abstain.
Decrease fat and cholesterol intake.
Aim to decrease the total amount of fat you eat daily to 30% or less of your total daily caloric intake (which should be around 2,300 calories if you’re pregnant). Limit cholesterol intake to 300 mg or less per day. Avoid fatty or processed foods, as these tend to be higher in fat and bad cholesterol.
Make friends with all the green vegetables.
I know this one can be difficult, especially if you’re like me, and think that “broccoli” should be a swear word, but hear me out. Broccoli is packed with nutrients like calcium and folate that are essential for a healthy pregnancy. It’s also rich in fiber and antioxidants. Cooked spinach has high levels of iron and folate, and kale and turnip greens are both good sources of calcium. Try adding darker greens (deeper colors signal higher vitamin content) to salads and sandwiches to up your nutrient intake.
When in doubt, skip it.
If you’re at a work lunch, a party, or in your kitchen, if there’s something you’re not sure about eating, don’t eat it. Trust your mama instincts, and never be afraid to consult with your doctor. Trust me, you’ll never be sorry about skipping something that could have been potentially harmful. Be aware of food-borne illness outbreaks and food recalls, and empower yourself to make the best choices for your body and your child.
Remember, moderation in all things.
Eating a variety of foods ensures that you get all of the nutrients your body (and your baby’s body) needs. Try to eat 6-11 servings of bread/whole grains, 2-4 serving of fruit, four (or more) servings of vegetables, four servings of dairy products and three serving of lean protein per day. Don’t be afraid to indulge in items higher in fats and sugars, but do so sparingly. Regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not, taking care of your body by eating a wide variety of foods is always a good idea.
Bonus Tip – If you’re pregnant and feeling really sick, try the following, under the supervision of your doctor:
- Morning sickness: Try eating crackers, cereal or pretzels before getting out of bed. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day and avoid fatty, spicy and greasy foods.
- Constipations: Make sure you’re drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day. Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Consider fiber supplements if okayed by your doctor.
- Diarrhea: To help absorb excess water, try eating more foods that contain pectin and gums (two forms of dietary fiber). Foods such as applesauce, bananas, white rice and oatmeal should fit the bill.
- Heartburn: Drink milk before eating, and limit citric drinks, caffeinated foods and beverages. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day, and limit spicy foods.
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