Eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise should always be an important part of your life and is especially important during pregnancy. Pregnancy requires additional nutrients to keep you healthy and to support your growing baby. It’s equally important to avoid foods that can be potentially harmful to your baby. Here are some dietary recommendations to guide you towards a happy, healthy pregnancy:
Beneficial Foods during Pregnancy
Start off with a Supplement.
It is important to start taking a prenatal multi-vitamin/mineral supplement about three months before conception. Even women who carefully plan to eat a healthy diet everyday sometimes miss out on important nutrients. Taking a prenatal multi-vitamin/mineral supplement daily will help fill in the gaps of any key nutrients that are missing. Talk to your OB/GYN to find out which one is best for you.
Focus on Folate.
An adequate amount of folic acid is essential before and during pregnancy. Folic acid intakes of at least 400 mcg/day for about three months prior to pregnancy and 600 mcg/day during pregnancy are known to decrease the risk of neural tube defects. Good food sources of folic acid include: green leafy vegetables, whole-grain breads, enriched grains (such as breads, cereals/pasta), citrus fruits and juices, nuts, seeds, dried beans/peas, and lentils. An easy way to ensure that you are getting in enough folic acid is to take your prenatal multi-vitamin/mineral supplements every day; most contain at least 400 mcg of folic acid – be sure to check the label!
Related | What is a Balanced Diet for Kids?
Consume Adequate Calories.
While pregnancy does increase your need for additional calories, it is important to remember that you are NOT eating for two. You only need to consume an additional 300 calories per day over your pre-pregnancy needs to support your growing baby. This is approximately the same amount of calories in 2.5 cups of low-fat milk. You many need more if you are very thin or carrying multiples. Just make sure you use your extra calories on foods that supply needed nutrients (NOT on ice cream and potato chips!).
Go for Whole Grains.
Whole grains are packed with nutrients. They contain important B vitamins needed by your growing baby as well as fiber needed by you to help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Make sure to read your food labels and look for the words whole grain.
Pick Plenty of Produce.
Fruits and vegetables supply many important nutrients including: vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Every color contains a different nutrient and bright colors usually indicate a high concentration of nutrients, so aim to consume a rainbow of brightly colored fruits and vegetables every day. Strive for 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily (1 serving = 1 medium apple, 1 small banana, 1/2 cup of chopped fruit/vegetable, 3/4 cup of fruit or vegetable juice, 1 cup raw leafy vegetables).
Other foods that are highly nutritious are sweet potatoes, organic legumes, avocados, red pepper.
It’s alright to eat almost any kind of fruits and vegetables, but berries are once of the best options if you have a selection of fruits available. Raspberries and blueberries are good for snacks or a topping for oatmeal and pancakes. They have high amounts of folic acid, potassium and fiber.
Remember: always wash your produce well.
Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy
There are many foods that you can consume that are healthy for the baby, and there are also several foods that you want to avoid while pregnant.
Avoid High-Mercury Fish.
Consuming low-mercury fish during pregnancy is highly recommended by medical experts. However, high-mercury fish should be avoided. Tuna is an option if you desire fish as it has a lower mercury content, but it should be consumed in moderation.
Among the fish to avoid are swordfish, king mackerel, shark, tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico. Any kind of fish should be avoided if raw.
Stay away from Deli meats.
Deli meat should specifically be avoided, as it could contain listeria and other bacteria. In general, if you can avoid processed foods, you probably should.
Beware of Soft Cheeses, and Unpasteurized Milk.
These should be avoided due to the risk of listeria, which can cause miscarriage. The soft cheeses that should be avoided are Brie, Gorgonzola, Feta, Roquefort, and other soft cheeses.
As with anything in pregnancy, it is best to check in with your provider, take in their recommendations, and remember that moderation is the key in our pregnancies and often in life.
Don’t Eat Raw or Undercooked Eggs.
Eggs are a great source of protein for pregnant women, though during pregnancy, women are especially susceptible to food borne illnesses. Raw, or lightly cooked eggs, that potentially carry Salmonella should be avoided, including soft boiled eggs, lightly scrambled eggs, lightly cooked omelettes, poached eggs, and Hollandaise sauce.
Yes, Avoid Alcohol.
Doctors recommend cutting out alcohol while expecting – nine months of cutting it from our diets will give us lots of reason to celebrate after we meet our babies.
Some studies say that it is best to avoid caffeine altogether as it may relate to miscarriages. If you can’t go without your cup of java, limiting to a cup a day is best.