When a woman is pregnant, eating healthy is more important than ever. A mother’s eating habits help to establish the essential building blocks of growth and overall health for her child. Eating nutritious foods can help expecting moms feel better during pregnancy and while breastfeeding their new baby.
To support your baby’s growth and development, your body requires more nutrients. Improving nutrition during pregnancy can be done by adding fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein. Pregnancy will also require an increase in certain vitamins and minerals such as folic acid and iron.
Depending on individual circumstances, a woman will need to consume about 300 calories more per day while pregnant. Adding in a few snacks such as apples and peanut butter, celery and raisins, or string cheese and a banana will help provide the extra healthy calories. Keep in mind that not all calories are equal. Try to avoid “empty calories.” These are found in highly processed foods, soft drinks, candies and desserts. As your baby grows, he or she needs healthy foods that are rich in nutrients.
Goals for healthy eating when pregnant:
If you are pregnant or might become pregnant, it is important to get enough folic acid (also known as folate, or B9), which helps prevent serious birth defects. Multivitamin supplements, especially prenatal vitamins, often contain folic acid. Food sources include green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit and beans.
Choose foods like lentils, quinoa, beans and chickpeas for an excellent plant-based source of fiber, protein, iron and folate.
Broccoli and dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach are full of nutrients like folate, folic acid, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, and vitamins C, K and A.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and winter squash are a good source of vitamin A, which is important for healthy fetal development.
Greek yogurt, almonds, white beans and hard cheese like sharp cheddar are rich in calcium and protein.
There are a wide variety of healthy nutritious food options to help support the growth and development of your baby. While pregnant it is important to remember to increase the amount of water that you drink. Discuss with your physician about healthy food choices, prenatal vitamins, water intake and what foods to avoid during pregnancy.
Foods to limit or avoid during pregnancy:
Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, poultry or eggs. Limit processed meats like turkey, ham, roast beef and hot dogs.
Limit caffeinated drinks like coffee, soda and energy drinks to no more than 300 mg per day.
Do not consume alcoholic beverages.
Do not eat unpasteurized soft cheese like brie, feta, blue-veined and Mexican-style cheese.
Certain types of fish should be avoided. Fish that have a high mercury content include tilefish, king mackerel, shark and swordfish. Also avoid any raw seafood like oysters and sushi.
Eating a healthy diet is something to strive for, whether you are pregnant or not. Healthy diets before and during pregnancy can help guard against a wide range of birth defects. Small steps like eating balanced meals and reducing your caffeine intake can help your body prepare for the demands of pregnancy.
Anna Holloway is clinical coordinator for CHI Mercy Health Family Birthplace.
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