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. Here are some tips to guide you towards a happy, healthy pregnancy:
1. 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.
2. 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!
3. 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!).
4. 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.
5. 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).
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