Pregnancy is a beautiful experience, but it has its fair share of challenges. One area of concern all pregnant women face is maintaining a balanced diet. Tasked with providing the growing child with plenty of key nutrients, moms-to-be must watch how much they eat and drink while also avoiding certain foods. Below are a few pregnancy nutrition tips to help understand what should be consumed and what to avoid.
It’s essential expecting mothers keep in mind that a nutritious, well-balanced eating plan could be one of the greatest gifts they ever give to their babies. By incorporating a variety of vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, legumes and other healthy food choices into her day-to-day routine, a mom-to-be can provide the necessary building blocks for healthy growth and development.
Another thing to bear in mind is that weight gain during pregnancy is normal, but it doesn’t mean it’s fat tissue that’s here to stay. As the body changes to accommodate the growing life, a woman’s total blood volume will increase — as much as 60% — causing the scale to go up as will the amniotic fluid in her uterus and the milk in her breasts. Furthermore, by the time the baby is ready to come into the world, he or she will weigh around six to ten pounds.
To fuel all this growth, pregnant women should expect to increase their caloric intake by an extra 300 calories per day. This increases to 600 for twins and 900 for triplets. These calories should not come from sweets and fats. Instead, a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains is needed for healthy development. These food choices could also help reduce nausea, constipation and other pregnancy symptoms. Of course, as every person is different, specific nutritional needs should be discussed with a health care provider.
Research has shown the nutrients from food alone aren’t always enough. As such, prenatal vitamins and supplements should be included in the eating plan as well. One of the top nutrients pregnant women need to supplement is folic acid. According to the U.S. Public Health Service, childbearing women should consume 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. Doing so can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. It can be found in green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits and fortified breakfast cereals, but a supplement is often needed to reach the full intake amount.
Pregnant women should avoid smoking, alcohol, unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk, as well as raw and undercooked seafood, eggs and meat. Meats — including hot dogs and deli meats — should be thoroughly cooked to avoid exposure to toxoplasmosis, salmonella and other harmful bacteria. It’s also important to speak with a health care provider about foods that should be limited, like caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
For additional pointers on the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy, please see the accompanying resource.
Infographic provided by Beyond The Box Nutrition