When it comes to a pregnancy diet, planning ahead is key.
By Lisa James | Edited by Brian Levine
Being pregnant (or planning for a pregnancy) is a great time to make lifestyle changes for the better, especially when it comes to dieting. The health of your baby depends on the quality of nourishment it receives, so what you eat is essential. But in contrast to the popular saying “eating for two,” you should really focus on eating carefully for one.
What follows are tips on what to eat and the nutrients you should be getting during your pregnancy diet. The idea is to follow a nutritious diet that allows you to gain weight gradually as your baby grows.
Healthy weight gain
How much weight should you expect to gain over the course of nine months? In general, you can anticipate adding between two-to-five pounds per month for the first 14 weeks, and roughly a pound per week thereafter until your due date (so, between 25-and-35 pounds in total). This translates into roughly an extra 300 calories a day. (More nourishment may be necessary if you are breastfeeding, extremely active, or carrying more than one child.)
Since stress and anxiety often lead to out-of-control eating (and gaining), be sure to tend to your own emotional needs during what can be a very exhilarating, yet sometimes overwhelming, time of life. Along with a healthy pregnancy diet, exercise is also vital for an overall better lifestyle. Yoga is great during pregnancy as it helps with breathwork to help you feel integrated and whole. Check out this blog about how to create your ideal workout plan.
What to eat during your pregnancy diet
For maximum nutrition, try to eat a variety of foods while avoiding anything that provokes morning sickness:
The health of your baby depends on the quality of nourishment it receives, so what you eat is essential.
- Whole grains provide both steady energy (unlike sugar-fueled spikes and crashes) and B vitamins are beneficial as well.
- Do not scrimp on fat – because your baby’s developing nervous system depends on it. (Don’t use your pregnancy, however, as an excuse to pig out.) Stick with such unsaturated fats (such as olive oil or avocado) along with rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids (like flax seed oil).
- You definitely want to indulge in those omega-3s, because these have shown to boost infant intellectual development. Fish is a fine source of both omega-3 and the high-quality protein needed to build your baby’s tissues. Your best low-mercury bets are catfish, pollock, salmon and shrimp. Supplemental fish oil is another great option option (mercury doesn’t live in the oil)
- Good protein sources include chicken, cottage cheese, lean red meat, yogurt and milk – all organically sourced whenever possible.)
- Stock the fridge with fresh produce. Fruits and veggies are richly endowed with vitamins and minerals. (For example, making like Popeye the Sailor and downing your spinach helps ensure you get plenty of folic acid and iron.) Eating foods rich in vitamin C can make it easier to absorb iron, as can eating such fermented soy goodies as tempeh and
Choose the right supplements to round out your diet
Folic Acid: This B vitamin significantly helps prevent neural tube birth defects. These defects include spina bifida, in which cases a malformed spinal cord can cause everything from fluid on the brain to paralysis. Women who are planning to become pregnant should take a supplement that supplies at least 400 mcg. Low folate is also associated with high levels of a metabolic byproduct called homocysteine. To help folate control homocysteine, add vitamins B-6 and B-12 to your regimen, especially if you are a vegan.
Iron: Iron deficiency is the most common micronutrient deficiency in the US, especially among women of childbearing age, and has been associated with poor child development after birth, as well as increased risk of miscarriage and premature delivery. A supplement should supply 30 mg. Vegetarians should pay special attention to their iron levels.
Calcium: Building baby’s bones requires plenty of calcium. Take a supplement that gives you 1200 mg a day, preferably in gluconate or chelate form for better absorption. (Calcium can also help cut the leg cramps caused by the pressure of a growing baby.)
Vitamin D: It doesn’t matter how much calcium you take if you’re not getting enough of the vitamin D that lets your body utilize calcium properly. Spending 15 minutes per day in the sun can restore your body’s supplies. Keep in mind, however, as this “Berkeley Wellness” blog points out: “…the farther north you live, the longer that period in the winter you can’t make vitamin D, and it’s actually not in too many foods.” Taking a supplement that provides at least 400 IU daily can make up the shortfall.
Note: Be sure to consult with your physician when planning your diet and choosing the supplements that work for you.
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