Healthy Eating for Pregnancy
Knowing what to eat and not to eat during pregnancy can be daunting and complicated for first time mothers. While you may be craving junk food and candy, it is important to set a few nutritional goals to make sure you are getting the right vitamins and minerals you need to help with the baby’s development and growth. Certain nutrients and foods can also help to alleviate some of the less than wonderful symptoms that come along with pregnancy.
During the second and third trimester, you should aim to consume an additional 300-500 calories per day. On average, you should be gaining an extra 25-30 pounds throughout the course of your pregnancy. Most of this weight will show up during the second and third trimesters. Having a well-balanced nutritional eating plan will ensure that you gain the weight at a gradual, healthy pace.
Foods to consider:
Consuming dairy products will help meet the protein and calcium needs of your growing baby. As well as being a great source of calcium, dairy also provides phosphorous, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. Greek yogurt, in particular is especially beneficial because it contains probiotic bacteria to support your digestive health.
**Breakfast tip: Top your Greek yogurt with a nutty granola and your favorite berries or banana slices and a drizzle of honey.
To support a healthy blood pressure, make sure to consume potassium rich foods, such as sweet potatoes, bananas, and spinach. Potassium can also help to alleviate certain pregnancy symptoms such as fluid retention, electrolyte imbalance, restless leg syndrome, and muscle cramps. For a potassium packed smoothie, try this recipe:
- 1 banana (frozen)
- 1 sweet potato, flesh only, cooked and cooled
- 1 ½ cup of ice
- 1 cup packed spinach
- 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
- 4 dates (pitted)
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
Protein is vital during pregnancy because it contains amino acids which act as the building blocks of each cell in your and your baby’s bodies. You can get plenty of protein from lean meats such as beef sirloin, ground beef with less than 15% fat, pork tenderloin and chops, chicken, and turkey. It is important to remember to cook your meats to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure any illness-causing bacteria is killed. For a non-meat option, try a protein source such as lentils. Not only are they an excellent source of protein, but they also contain a good amount of iron. Iron is important for pregnancy because it supports your and your baby’s red blood cell growth.
You cannot eat too many fresh vegetables! They contain an abundance of substantial vitamins that are essential to pregnant women. Carrots make a great snack, packed with Vitamin A that is crucial for your baby’s developing eyes, skin, and organs. Red bell peppers make for a great source Vitamin B and C. If you do not like raw veggies on their own, try dipping them in hummus!
If you are craving seafood, try out salmon! It is packed with a ton of great pregnancy nutrients, such as DHA omega-3s. Since the body does not produce its own naturally, cold-water fish like salmon can get you there. Omega-3s are critical when it comes to the baby’s brain and eye development. Salmon is a safe choice for pregnancy seafood because it does not contain the mercury that shark and swordfish do. Try baking your salmon seasoned with lemon pepper and served with a side of sweet potatoes and asparagus for an ultimate power meal!
WATER, WATER, WATER!!
Don’t forget to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is the most important part of your pregnancy diet! Make it your goal to drink at least half a gallon a day, if not more. Water will help to absorb all of the nutrients you’ve consumed and will be key in transporting the vitamins, minerals, and hormones to your and your baby’s blood cells.
Be mindful of the things to avoid eating during pregnancy. There are a few items that could be harmful to the baby’s development or are more likely to harbor harmful bacteria.
Things to take off the menu:
- Unpasteurized juice
- Unpasteurized dairy
- Raw seafood
- Rare meat
- Hot dogs and deli meat
- Raw eggs
- High-mercury fish
- Raw sprouts
While some of those off-limit foods can be tempting, just remember that the sacrifices you are making are the first steps in giving your baby a healthy start in life. Eating healthy for nine months can be a challenge, but there are so many ways to get the proper nutrients you need, whether that’s putting veggies in a salad, mixing fruits into your morning yogurt, or seasoning up a filet of salmon. There are plenty of options, you just have to find what works best for you! At the end of the day, don’t forget to reward yourself with that chocolate chip cookie! After all, you deserve it!