When I found out I was pregnant, I was excited to start “eating for two.” I have to admit I was sad to find out that only meant adding 300 calories to my existing diet each day. When it comes to growing a healthy baby, the rules aren’t much different from eating healthy when you aren’t pregnant. You should eat a well-balanced diet with whole grains and colorful fruits and vegetables, organic when possible. Additionally you should supplement your diet with prenatal vitamins, extra protein and be especially mindful of your specific nutritional intake.
According to WebMD, when pregnant you need the following amounts of nutrients daily:
- 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium for strong, healthy bones and teeth. Eat about 4 servings of tofu, dairy (click here to learn about getting enough calcium if you’re lactose intolerant), green vegetables, seafood (low mercury and cooked), peas and beans a day to get enough calcium.
- 27 mg of iron, which is needed to form hemoglobin in your blood to carry oxygen around your body and to your baby. Look for iron in fortified cereals, lean meats, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables, beans and peas.
- 70 mg of vitamin C to repair tissue and help your body use iron. Eat plenty of oranges, broccoli and bell peppers.
- 0.4-0.8 mg of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, such as Spina Bifida. This B vitamin is found in dark leafy greens, enriched grains, peas and beans.
- 6-8 glasses of filtered water to help carry nutrients to your baby, replenish amniotic fluid, flush waste from your body (which means less chance of a urinary tract infection) and less water retention and swelling. Click here to read more about the importance of hydration during pregnancy.
Also make sure your diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to both your and your baby’s developing brain, heart, and eyes. Research suggests a correlation between diets rich in DHA and a lower risk of many conditions, such as preterm delivery, low birth weight and postpartum depression. Eat walnuts, flax seed and salmon to get both ALA and DHA, and/or consider taking a daily DHA supplement.
- Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook for Today’s Mothers-to-Be by Catherine Jones offers a variety of easy to follow recipes for every meal.
- The 100 Healthiest Foods to Eat During Pregnancy: The Surprising Unbiased Truth about Foods You Should be Eating During Pregnancy but Probably Aren’t by Jonny Bowden Ph.D.C.N.S. is filled with nutrient facts and beautiful photography that may lead to some very strong cravings.
- The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood by William Sears, MD has great information about ways to give your kids proper nutrition and healthy eating habits, even from the womb.
Here in Atlanta, there are many great places to get fresh healthy food. My favorite places are Rainbow Natural Foods, Sevenanda, Your DeKalb Farmers Market, Life Grocery and Whole Foods Market. Here is how my menu might look on any given day to make sure I’m getting enough nutrients and protein:
- Breakfast: Smoothie – I alternate between various green smoothies, flax seed smoothies, and adding any of these superfoods to my fruit smoothies.
- Lunch: Salad with fruit and nuts or seeds
- Dinner: Wild salmon. Try one of these delicious salmon recipes: Baked Salmon with Black Bean and Mango Salsa or Sesame Wild Salmon with Bok Choy and Couscous.
- Snacks: Fruit and nuts, celery and nut butter, yogurt
- Daily Vitamin: Perfect Prenatal
There are also foods and beverages to avoid during pregnancy: alcohol, fish high in mercury (i.e. shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish), raw fish, unpasteurized milk and cheese, sprouts, and saccharin. You should also limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg a day. Minimizing or eliminating trans fats, large amounts of saturated fats, sweetened beverages, candy and other sweets, artificial color dyes and sweetners like high fructose corn syrup will be among the important changes you can make now in your pregnancy that will shape a healthier life.
If you have special dietary needs or preferences, discuss them with your provider. He/She can offer you advice on how to get the needed nutrition and can refer you to a nutritionist for more individualized meal planning, if necessary. Here is one article on tips for healthy eating during pregnancy for vegetarians. You should also avoid dieting during pregnancy.
Do you have any favorite pregnancy cookbooks or recipes?
Salmon Photo: Gloria Dawson, food styling: Karen Berner
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