A healthy diet is important for you and your growing baby. You only need about 300 additional calories each day during pregnancy. When you are planning meals, include a variety of different nutrients for a balanced diet. Fill in the gaps with healthy snacks. Avoid empty calories or unhealthy foods to give your baby a good start and avoid excessive weight gain.
Foods You Need
- Protein: You need between sixty and eighty grams of protein each day. If you are expecting twins, you will need more. Protein is important for the baby’s body tissues and the placenta. Good sources of protein include chicken, meat, turkey and fish. Non meat sources of protein include eggs, yogurt, beans, milk, cheese, peanut butter and tofu. Vegetarian mothers need to be careful to include enough protein during meals and snacks.
- Iron: You need extra iron in your diet because your blood volume increases during pregnancy. Without enough iron, you may develop iron deficiency anemia. Leafy green vegetable such as spinach and broccoli, meat and strawberries are good sources of iron. If the level of iron is low in your blood, you may need to take supplements. Don’t take supplements with milk, as this can inhibit the absorption of the vitamins.
- Calcium: Your baby’s growing bones need enough calcium. If you don’t get enough, the baby will take it from your bones. Pregnant women need at least four servings of calcium rich foods each day. Milk, cheese and yogurt are good sources of calcium. These foods also contain protein, so you are getting two important nutrients in one food.
- Folate: This nutrient is important even before you conceive. It decreases the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect. This nutrient is present in prenatal vitamins. Some good food sources include eggs, green vegetables and citrus fruits. It is now added to some foods such as cereals and breads.
- Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Include a fresh fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack. These are important for a variety of nutrients and vitamins. Choose a wide variety of both in all colors to cover your nutritional needs. If you aren’t getting enough nutrients at meals, fresh fruits and vegetables make great snack choices.
- Drink Fluids: It’s important to get enough fluids in your diet. You should get at least eight glasses a day. Try to get most of your fluid intake from milk and water. Fruit juice is also good, but not at the expense of water and milk. Limit soda and beverages containing caffeine.
Foods to Avoid or Limit
- Seafood: Avoid fish that are known to contain mercury including: shark, king mackerel, tile fish and swordfish. Some doctors advise limiting tuna to two servings each week. Others recommend not eating tuna at all. If you do eat some tuna, opt for the chunk light over the solid white, which contains more mercury. Stay away from raw seafood, such as sushi. This can contain bacteria that can be dangerous to you and your baby.
- Soft Cheeses: Soft cheeses such as feta and brie should be avoided during pregnancy. These can harbor bacteria, which can be harmful to a developing baby. Hard cheeses are safe and a good source of calcium.
- Caffeine: Limit your intake of caffeine during pregnancy. More than four servings each day has been linked to miscarriage and preterm labor. Keep in mind that caffeine is in tea, soda and chocolate.
- Alcohol: Opinions on this seem to change frequently. Some think an occasional glass of wine is safe, while other experts say no alcohol should be consumed at all. Too much can lead to birth defects and learning disabilities. To be safe, avoid alcohol during your pregnancy.
- Undercooked Meats: Stay away from undercooked meat, which can contain salmonella or e coli. Be sure to cook all meat thoroughly and order well done meat in restaurants.
- Lunchmeat: Limit your consumption of lunch meats during pregnancy. They can contain a bacterium known as listeria. If you occasionally have lunch meat, be sure it is very fresh.
Snacks are a good way to fill in the gaps in nutrition. If you are experiencing morning sickness or heartburn, healthy snacks can help you get the nutrients you may be missing at meal time. Stay away from the junk and opt for healthy choices when snacking.
- Yogurt: Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium and fiber.
- Trail Mix: Make your own trail mix with cereal, nuts and dried fruit. Carry it with you in a zip lock sandwich bag for snacking on the run.
- String Cheese: String cheese contains calcium and protein. It’s a good choice for a quick snack.
- Salad: Make a salad with a variety of fresh vegetables for between meal snacking. Include spinach, baby carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes for more variety.
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