Pregnancy nutrition:

What to eat during pregnancy.

By John Berardi, Ph.D.

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Most women realize that what they eat during pregnancy can have important effects on the health of their baby. However, very few women know exactly what to eat and what to avoid.

So, in this article, I’ll be sharing with you strategies for eating properly to support your own health – and the health of your baby.

Also, for those of you interested in preventing excess weight gain, gestational diabetes, and more, these tips are just what the doctor ordered.

food1 Pregnancy nutrition: What to eat during pregnancy.

Pregnancy means building

To begin with, pregnancy is a period of anabolism, or building.

Like weight lifters building new muscle tissue after their strength training sessions, pregnant women’s bodies are in building mode. But instead of building muscle tissue, you’re building baby tissue.

To this end, it’s critical that you’re eating more calories, more macronutrition (protein, carbohydrates, fats), and more micronutrition (vitamins and minerals) then you’d normally eat.

But how much extra should you be eating? Well, research shows that an extra 300-500kcal/day will do the trick.

If you exercise regularly, you’ll want to shoot for closer to 500kcal/day extra. And if you’re not exercising regularly, 300kcal/day should do.

While this represents a respectable increase in food intake, don’t go overboard. Adding 2 healthy snacks to your regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule can easily help you meet your extra caloric needs.

Of course, you’ll want those snacks to be full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients – all critical for health. So make sure you’re making the right choices.

For help in that department, see the food listings below.

Pregnancy and weight gain

One question I’m often asked is this: how can I know if I’m eating enough? Well, that’s simple. Here are some guidelines for healthy weight gain during pregnancy:

  • Underweight women should gain between 25 and 35 lb
  • Overweight women should gain no more than 15 to 25 lb
  • Women 5’2” or shorter should gain between 15 and 25 lb

I understand that many women gain far more weight than this. And there are a few scenarios where that’s a necessary consequence of complications during pregnancy.

But for most healthy pregnancies, a combination of exercising and eating right can help eliminate excess weight gain, promoting just the right amount.

Now, here’s an important note for those fitness buffs out there. The levels of weight gain suggested above aren’t negotiable.

Indeed, studies show that less weight gain than listed above can result in infants with low birth weights. And this may mean delayed development.

You see, the mother’s weight determines fetal weight. In other words, if the mother does not gain enough weight, the fetus may remain small simply to protect the mother’s own body.

So again, you’ll want to gain the right amount of weight. Too little – or too much – can harm both you and the baby.

Foods to include, foods to avoid

I know that nausea and food cravings both come into play when pregnant. However, it’s important to remember that you’re still in control. In other words, it’s your choice as to what you eat and what you don’t eat. So choose wisely.

Giving in to cravings for junk food, or avoiding food because of fear of nausea, can subject your growing baby to a host of birth defects.

Heck, research has shown that inadequate nutritional status during development can also have consequences for the child later in life, increasing his or her risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and Type II diabetes.

So let’s talk about what you should be eating and what you should be avoiding.

The following table provides a list of foods that should be actively sought out during pregnancy – as well as foods that should be minimized and/or avoided.

Foods to include

Protein-rich foods

  • Lean meats (preferably grass-fed, organic)
  • A small amount of dairy
  • Get 1g of protein per lb of body weight during 2nd and 3rd trimester
  • Supplement with natural, unsweetened protein powder if necessary

Omega-3 rich foods

  • Flax
  • Walnuts
  • Chia
  • Hemp
  • Fish oil supplements (non-liver)
  • Algae
  • Seaweed

Vitamin D-rich foods

  • 20-30 min sun exposure 2-3 days per week
  • Vitamin D fortified foods
  • Vitamin D supplements (1000 IU/day)

Zinc-rich foods

  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Animal foods

Folate-rich foods

  • Dark, leafy veggies
  • Legumes
  • Folate-fortified foods
  • Folic acid supplements(0.4 mg or 400 ug /day)

Calcium-rich foods

  • Dark green leafy veggies
  • Bok choy
  • Tofu
  • Legumes
  • Figs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fortified milks
  • Fortified cereal grains

Vitamin B-12 rich foods

  • Animal foods
  • Vitamin B supplements(3 ug/day)

Iron-rich foods

  • Dark green leafy veggies
  • Dried fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Animal foods

healthy foods Pregnancy nutrition: What to eat during pregnancy.

Foods To Avoid or Minimize

Avoid or minimize

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • >300mg caffeine per day
  • Cured/deli meats
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • High sugar intake
  • Using cravings to justify poor food choices

Completely avoid

  • Raw foods (eggs, seafood, meat, sushi)
  • Shark (cooked or raw)
  • Swordfish (cooked or raw)
  • King Mackerel (cooked or raw)
  • Tilefish (cooked or raw)
  • Soft cheeses (mould-ripened, blue-veined, unpasteurized)

Supplements

Most medical organizations now recommend a daily multi-vitamin/multi-mineral for most people. Pregnant women are no exception.

Indeed, research has shown that vitamin supplementation can improve pregnancy outcomes while even reducing nausea and “morning sickness.”

When choosing a multi-vitamin supplement, be sure it contains adequate B-vitamins (including B-12 at 3 ug/day and folic acid at 400 ug/day).

Most prenatal formulas on the market will do the trick. Further, if you’re not getting adequate sun exposure during your pregnancy, you might also include a vitamin D supplement (1000 IU/day).

In the end, the research is clear: eating right during pregnancy is a must.

Step 1: Choose the right foods (from above).

Step 2: Monitor your weight gain to ensure you’re not gaining too much (or too little).

In taking these steps you can rest easy, knowing that you’ve done everything in your power to ensure a successful pregnancy.

Eat, move, and live… better.

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