Congratulations! Eating correctly when you are pregnant is one of the most important steps to building a healthy baby. Your body provides your fetus with everything it needs. You need to eat for both your health and your child’s health.
However, you are not eating for two! You should only increase your calorie consumption by a few hundred calories a day. You don’t want to gain too much weight during your pregnancy (and it doesn’t magically melt off once you deliver).
Make every calorie count to provide your baby with everything you need to stay healthy. This is not an exhaustive discussion but covers the highlights.
Carry a water bottle and use it! If you live where there is clean water, tap water is fine. You’ll need about 2.5 liter of water a day, but some can come from other foods and drinks. Your body ensures your fetus gets all the water it needs but may short you.
If you become dehydrated, you can suffer from headaches, anxiety, tiredness, bad mood, and reduced memory. Drinking water will help you stay regular and reduce urinary tract infections.
You need good quality lean protein for a healthy baby. Make sure you eat lean beef, pork, chicken or plant-based proteins. Beef and pork contain a lot of B vitamins and those as vitally important to a healthy baby.
Iron is very important. Low iron levels are associated with premature delivery and low birth weight.
If meat brings on morning sickness or you are a vegetarian, don’t worry. Eat plant-based proteins like quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts, and nut butter.
Fish and Omega-3 Foods
Fish is a lean protein but is important for other reasons. Salmon is a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Virtually no one gets enough fatty acids, and pregnant women are especially deficient.
Limit your seafood intake to twice a week. If seafood brings on morning sickness or you are vegetarian, eat flaxseeds, chia seeds, and omega-3 enriched eggs.
Omega-3 is used to grow your baby’s eyes and brain. Studies also show omega-3 reduces anxiety in pregnant women.
Calcium Rich Foods
Your fetus is growing bones, so support that by eating calcium. The obvious source is dairy foods – milk, cheese, and yogurt. Greek yogurt is especially effective as it also contains probiotics.
These reduce the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and vaginal infections. Dairy is not the only calcium-rich foods. Sardines, canned salmon, chia seeds, broccoli, beans, kale, and other vegetables are also very high.
Each calcium-rich food offers a unique set of nutrients, so eat a variety.
Eat whole grains when you are pregnant. These include oatmeal, whole grain bread, ancient grains like quinoa and amaranth, and brown rice. These are great sources of easily digested carbohydrates, fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Some, like oats and quinoa, are excellent sources of protein.
Avoid white flours and bread and white rice. These are basically like eating sugar and contain very few of the extra important nutrients found in whole grains. Remember to make calories count!
Zinc Rich Food
Zinc is extremely important for cellular health and cell division. Since that is how your fetus grows from a single cell to a full-term baby, you need zinc.
If you are eating lean protein, fish, dairy, beans/legumes, and whole grains, you are getting zinc. Other zinc-rich foods include beans, peanut butter, nuts, sunflower seeds, ginger, onions, and eggs.
Eating a variety of healthy foods is very important and many show up several times on recommended lists.
The fruit is an excellent source of water, fiber, and various vitamins and antioxidants. Berries are particularly healthy because their vitamin C helps you absorb iron. They are also sweet but offer few calories.
Snacking on fruits of all varieties is very healthy. You want to avoid sugar as much as possible and fruit gives you a needed sweetness and treat! Avoid fruit juices because they are high in calories and sugar and low in fiber.
Dried fruit is another excellent snack. One serving of dried fruit offers a higher percentage of vitamins, minerals and fiber than fresh fruit. Prunes are great for ending constipation. Dates may help with cervical dilation. Avoid the candied versions or ones with added sugar.
Nibble on one serving over the day since they are higher in calories than fresh varieties.
Like fruit, vegetables are low calorie, nutrient-rich food. Eating a rainbow of veggies raw, steamed or roasted for best nutrition.
Look for veggies high in carotenes, like carrots, sweet potatoes, and other yellow/orange produce. Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A.
Vitamin A is very important in fetal development, except too much animal-based vitamin A (liver, cheeses) can be toxic. Focus on eating vegetables rich in beta-carotene and avoid vitamin A supplement, unless recommended by your doctor.
Good fats are good but bad fats are bad for your fetus. Studies show that a high-fat diet while pregnant can genetically program your baby for diabetes.
Avoid fried foods and fatty meat. Also avoid transfats like partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated vegetable oils. These are commonly found in processed food do make sure read the labels.
Focus on eating good fats from eggs, oily fish, avocados, nuts, and oils from olives, peanuts, sunflowers, and sesame. Just don’t go overboard, because fat is still fat!
Eating healthily is very important whether or not you are pregnant. Give your developing baby (and your body) the best of nutrients by eating carefully and from a broad spectrum of foods.
Since you need extra calories, but not too many extra, don’t go overboard on eating. Make every bite count. Luckily, that is very easy since many of the foods show up in several important categories.
You can take supplements, and your doctor will probably recommend some. However, getting vitamins and minerals and other nutrition from food usually makes it easier for your body to absorb them.