Eating well during your pregnancy is one of the most important ways to make sure your baby grows strong and healthy. He’s relying on you for his nutrients; in that way, you really are eating for two! Many women say, “Well, I’m going to gain weight anyway; I may as well skip the veggies and go right for the baby cookies.” It doesn’t quite work that way. Your baby needs vitamins and minerals, not sugar! Plus, gaining too much weight can be harmful to your health and that of the baby. So eating right is important – but how do you do it?
First, know how many calories you need to shoot for. During the first trimester, you do not need to increase your calorie intake at all. In fact, this is one of the miracles of being a mom: you produce a hormone called HCG, which nourishes the egg. This is important, especially if you cannot keep food down because of morning sickness. The baby still gets the nutrients he needs, even if you are lacking a little at that time.
During the second trimester, you can add more calories to your daily diet. An average woman will need to add between 300 and 500 calories. No, let’s amend that: an average woman will need to add between 300 and 500 high quality calories.
Here are some excellent, nutrient-rich choices for a healthy mom and baby:
- Fruits and vegetables. Many women have low iron during pregnancy, so eating greens like kale and spinach is a great way to boost it without having to take another pill. Make sure to wash all produce thoroughly. Especially good for you are: broccoli, avocado, spinach, kale, red pepper, edamame, and mangoes. These foods pack a nutritious punch. Like they say: eat a rainbow!
- Lentils. Whether you make soup or serve a lentil salad, you will be getting protein, iron, vitamin B6, and folic acid with every bite. Experiment with flavors and taste the versatility of this bean.
- Oatmeal. Your breakfast bowl will be filled with iron, B vitamins, and fiber. You can have it as a cereal in the morning (or whenever you need a snack!) or sprinkle oats in other foods, such as meatloaf, cookies, muffins, and more.
- Yogurt. Calcium, folic acid, protein, and yumminess; yogurt has it all. It makes a great snack and you can vary it by adding toppings like fruit or granola. You can also switch sour cream and mayo for yogurt in many recipes. The benefit is that if you are running late for work, need a snack on the way home, or forgot to pack some munchies for after the gym, you can grab yogurt at any grocery or convenience store.
These are just a few suggestions; in pregnancy, as the rest of the time, it is all about better choices. Instead of reaching for a candy bar, go for a small package of nuts. Instead of eating a bowl of cream soup before dinner, have veggie soup or a salad.
Many foods are harmful for pregnant women and developing fetuses. These include:
- First and foremost, no alcohol. No beer, no drinking wine gifts, nothing.
- Fish with mercury, fish exposed to industrial pollutants, raw shellfish, and smoked seafood should be avoided. Run away from these heavy metals, seaborne illnesses, and the bacteria, Listeria.
- Soft cheeses. Not the cheese! Brie, feta, gorgonzola camembert, and Mexican-style cheeses are made with unpasteurized milk, which means they may contain Listeria. This bacteria increases the chance of miscarriage and can infect the baby. If the cheese is made with pasteurized milk, go ahead – but limit calorie-dense choices!
- Deli meats. Listeria rears its ugly head again, this time in our sliced ham, roast beef, and turkey. While you’re at it, stay away from pate, which can also contain Listeria.
- Caffeine. A cup of coffee, if you absolutely have to, is probably fine. But more than that increases your risk of miscarriage and it could contribute to low birth weight, premature birth, and/or withdrawal symptoms at birth. In addition, it can leach necessary calcium and fluids from your body.
Go to FoodSafety.gov to see a complete list of foods to avoid when you are pregnant. You may have to give up sushi and brie for a few months, but a healthy baby is well worth it.
- Preparing For A New Baby: A How To Guide