Healthy Pregnancy Diet: Everything You Need to Know
A woman’s body is undergoing great changes during pregnancy as it adjusts to accommodating a new life. Maintaining a specialized well-balanced pregnancy diet is essential as any nutrient deficiency can result in birth defects and other complications for both the mother and the baby.
Doing this can be difficult during the first months of pregnancy because of regular nausea and vomiting. Luckily, there are a variety of food options you can consume at this time and many interesting recipes to try. Therefore, you should be able to find something healthy that your stomach agrees with. As long as you follow the simple rules of healthy eating during pregnancy, both you and your baby should be safe.
Pregnancy Diet: General Guidelines
- Have several small meals throughout the day.
You should eat 5 meals a day at the least. If your body urges you to get more nutrition, you can up this number to 7 or even more. It’s not only healthy, but necessary to gain some extra weight during pregnancy. However, if you feel hungry no matter how much you eat, or if your weight gain rate is too high, you should consult your doctor. This may be caused by a poorly balanced diet.
- Embrace the versatility.
You and your baby require a great number of nutrients, so you should consume a variety of different foods in order to ensure your body gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Eat fruits, vegetables and grains every day. Now is a great time to try some new recipes to diversify your pregnancy diet. Just be careful to avoid any potentially dangerous foods. In addition, if you are prone to allergies, you shouldn’t take the risk trying new foods that might trigger this reaction.
- Get more fiber.
You’ll need it to regulate your weight and keep your digestive system healthy during this stressful period.
- Take supplements for extra vitamins and minerals.
In the vast majority of cases, even a well-balanced diet cannot provide you with the extra dose of these essential nutrients necessary for the healthy development of the baby. Therefore, you should take specialized prenatal supplements. Your doctor will advise the best product depending on your personal needs.
- Get a double-extra dose of calcium.
If you eat dairy products, your pregnancy diet should include 3-4 servings of them a day. An alternative to these woods is grains complemented with a specialized mineral supplement. Note that this supplement should be an extra to the regular prenatal vitamin and mineral complex.
- Stock up on iodine.
This element is vital for the healthy development of your baby as it plays an important role in the formation of the brain and nervous system of the fetus. The vast majority of people suffer from an iodine deficiency, so an extra dose of this element is necessary. Enhance your pregnancy diet with iodine supplements, dairy (cottage cheese in particular), baked navy beans, baked potatoes, and a variety of seafood.
- Increase your intake of folic acid.
This element from the group of B vitamins has the power to reduce the risk of birth defects significantly. Therefore, it’s an absolute must for pregnant women. The best food sources of this nutrient are legumes and seeds. However, you may need to take an extra serving in the form of supplements.
What to Eat and Not to Eat During Pregnancy
Knowing the list of nutrients you need to consume to ensure healthy development for your baby isn’t enough to develop a good pregnancy diet. There are many foods that can provide your body with these essential elements, but you can’t eat all of them during this time. Therefore, it’s very important to understand which foods you should put on your table more often and which are to be avoided at all costs.
Foods to Eat:
Whole grains are the best, so be sure to eat at least a bowl of whole grain cereal and a few slices of whole wheat bread a day. These foods are a great source of fiber and carbohydrates that would provide you with energy. They also contain precious minerals, such as iron, copper, and magnesium. Aside from your breakfast cereal and bread, you can get your daily dose of whole grains from brown rice or whole grain pasta for dinner.
- Fruits and vegetables.
These foods must be part of every pregnancy diet as they provide your body with dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are easy to digest and absorb. You can eat them fresh or dried, make juice or cook a delightful veggie pizza. Don’t forget about smoothies that can combine a variety of healthy ingredients.
Beans and peas are great protein sources, so they are invaluable for vegans and vegetarians. Be sure to cook them well as dry beans contain some chemicals that may cause irritation and other unpleasant reactions. Soak them for hours or sprout the beans to ensure they are free of any phytotoxins. Baked legumes would be a great choice at this time.
- Meat, poultry, and fish.
If you aren’t a vegetarian or vegan, you may increase your protein intake with these food sources. Fish, in particular, is good for a pregnancy diet because it provides you with iodine and omega 3 fatty acids. However, be sure to avoid swordfish, tilefish, shark, and king mackerel as these species are high in mercury.
Poultry is preferable to red meat during pregnancy as it’s easier for your body to digest. If you absolutely crave a steak, make sure it’s lean and well cooked.
You should eat dairy products for calcium and vitamin D. If this doesn’t go against the rules of your personal diet, you should eat yogurts, add milk to cereals, and put some low-fat cheese in your salads.
NOTE: If you don’t eat dairy in general, or have trouble digesting it during pregnancy, you can get your calcium from calcium-fortified orange juice or sardines available in stores.
Hydration is essential for your health and it’s even more important for your growing baby as water carries the precious nutrients. Not drinking enough water can contribute to premature birth or the development of birth defects. On average, your liquid intake during the pregnancy diet should be about 10 cups (2.4 liters) per day. It doesn’t all have to be plain water as milk, juice, tea, and soups also count.
Foods NOT to Eat:
Note that only raw eggs shouldn’t be included in your pregnancy diet because they might contain salmonella. This bacterium is destroyed during the process of cooking. Therefore, if you are sure that the eggs are fresh and properly cooked, you can eat them without fear. They might become a good source of protein for those who doesn’t at meat.
Fish is good for you, but raw fish carries too many risks to consume it during pregnancy. You can only eat rolls made from cooked ingredients.
- Unpasteurized juice.
Forget about cider sold from food stands and any juices bought from the store that say “unpasteurized” on the label. They might contain ingredients harmful for the fetus. Usually, your body’s natural defenses will protect you from any minor bacteria and toxins in unpasteurized products, but your immunity is weakened during pregnancy.
If you are addicted to coffee, you may need to drink a cup a day (not more than 300mg of caffeine) as withdrawal symptoms might be harder on your baby than the little bit of caffeine. However, limit your intake as much as possible.
- Processed and junk foods.
These foods must be excluded from your pregnancy diet as they have very little nutritional value but are packed with toxins and other harmful chemicals that have a negative effect on your and your baby’s health.
You may occasionally indulge in some sweets, but go for the natural variety, like fruit desserts and homemade confections. Avoid sugar, as it’s very harmful to both yourself and the fetus.
There are some arguments about the “safe” dose and type of alcohol for pregnant women. However, if you want to be sure that you and your baby are safe. You shouldn’t drink at all.
As you can see, there are a great variety of foods you can “play” with to fill your pregnancy diet with delicious and nutritious meals. You can also break the rules on occasion, especially if the craving gets impossible to handle. Just be sure to not overindulge in any kind of food and monitor your weight gain so that it doesn’t exceed the healthy level. Your doctor will help you do this and offer nutritional advice.