What does diet during pregnancy mean? When we refer to diet during pregnancy, we are not speaking about restricting calories or trying to lose weight. Dieting to lose weight during pregnancy can be hazardous to you and your baby, especially since a weight loss regimen may restrict important nutrients such as iron, folic acid, and other important vitamins and minerals. Therefore, we recommend avoiding popular diets such as Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Raw Food Diet, and so on.
The type of diet we encourage during pregnancy refers to fine-tuning your eating habits to ensure you are receiving adequate nutrition for the health of you and your baby. Healthy eating during pregnancy is critical to your baby’s growth and development. In order to get the nutrients you need, you must eat from a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein sources and dairy products. Typically, you will need to consume an extra 300 calories a day.
Diet During Pregnancy: Food Groups
It is always important to eat a variety of foods throughout the day making certain that you get the nutrients that both you and your baby need. Here is a look at the food groups and some suggested sources for creating a healthy diet during pregnancy.
Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain many important nutrients for pregnancy especially, Vitamin C and Folic Acid. Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C daily, which is contained in fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and honeydew, and vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, and brussel sprouts. In order to prevent neural tube defects, 0.4 mg of folic acid per day is recommended. A good source of folic acid can be found in dark green leafy vegetables (other sources of folic acid include legumes, such as black or lima beans, black-eyed peas, and veal). You should have at least 2-4 servings of fruit and 4 or more servings of vegetables daily.
Breads and Grains: The body’s main source of energy for pregnancy comes from the essential carbohydrates found in breads and grains. Whole grain and enriched products provide important nutrients such as iron, B Vitamins, fiber and some protein, even. You can also get the required amount of folic acid from fortified bread and cereal. Depending on your weight and dietary needs, you should consume anywhere between 6-11 servings (6-11oz) of breads/grains daily.
Protein: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and beans contain the protein, B vitamins and iron needed in pregnancy. Your developing baby needs plenty of protein, especially in the second and third trimesters. Iron helps to carry oxygen to your growing baby, and also carries oxygen to your muscles to help avoid symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, irritability and depression. The U.S. RDA recommends about 27 mg per day. Lean beef, chicken, lamb, liver, turkey and veal are good options. Fish and some seafood can also be a good nutritional choice for pregnancy, within guidelines. Fish that contain high levels of mercury should be avoided (Read more about Fish and Mercury Levels). You should consume at least 3 servings of protein daily.
Dairy Products: At least 1000 mg of calcium is needed daily to support a pregnancy. Calcium is essential for building strong teeth and bones, normal blood clotting, and muscle and nerve function. Since your developing baby requires a considerable amount of calcium, your body will take calcium from your bones, if you do not consume enough through your diet (which can lead to future problems, such as osteoporosis). Good sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, cream soups and puddings. Some calcium is also found in green vegetables, seafood, beans and dried peas. You should consume at least 4 servings of dairy products daily.
Diet During Pregnancy: A complement to nutrition
Prenatal Vitamins: Although the main source of vitamins and nutrients needed during pregnancy should come from your diet, a daily prenatal vitamin can help fill small gaps—just in case you unintentionally do not get enough key nutrients. Prenatal should be taken up to three months before conception, if possible. Consult your healthcare provider about which supplement is best for you.
REMEMBER – a prenatal vitamin or any other supplements are only complements to a healthy diet during pregnancy.
Diet During Pregnancy: Sample Daily Menu
The following sample menu will give you some idea of what a pregnant woman should typically consume in a day for a healthy diet during pregnancy. Three small but balanced meals and three light snacks throughout the day are a good rule of thumb to ensure you and your baby’s nutritional needs are met.
Breakfast: Oatmeal cereal, banana, 1 slice whole wheat toast, 2 tsp jam, 1 cup skim milk
Snack: 1 cup yogurt, grapes
Lunch: Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, small bag potato chips, pear, and 1 cup skim milk
Snack: Raw veggies and low calorie dip
Dinner: 4 oz chicken, 1 cup wild rice, 1 cup veggies, 1 cup skim milk
Snack: fresh fruit or low-fat frozen yogurt
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Pregnancy and nutrition: Healthy-eating basics. Mayo Clinic
WemMD.com, “Eating Right When Pregnant”