What’s Up with Pregnancy Diet?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

The biggest mistake women make when they think about pregnancy diet is that they should eat for two. This is the biggest debunked myth when it comes to diet during pregnancy. The truth is, pregnant women need around 300 more calories per day during the first trimester, and those should increase* to 500 during the second and the third trimester. However, the food mothers consume should be healthy and rich of the right nutrients. The ratio of food intake stays the same: 60% should come from carbohydrates, 30% from fat and 10% from proteins. However, proteins now should be with high biological value for maximum usage. Milk, eggs and soya are highly recommended.

What’s So Special with Pregnancy Diet

Pregnancy diet is good and useful for both the mother and the baby. The fetus will need the best possible food service it can get and should be complemented with healthy nutrients. Pregnancy diet is sensible, healthy-balanced eating plan, with the focus more on the baby. Unlike before, when mothers eat for their own good, they now need to put baby’s needs in the first place. And it is not like much is changing. Mothers still consume the food they usually eat, with some added nutrients for the baby.

What Foods to Eat during Pregnancy?

Pregnancy diet is divided in several essential groups for daily intake. And the best part is some foods can satisfy needs for two or more groups. For example, yogurt is recommended for both protein and calcium source. Mothers should follow the pregnancy diet plan, but they should not stress if someday they don’t make it.

Calories. As mentioned, mothers should try to add 300 calories to their daily intake. The baby is still very small, and eating for two will provide way more calories than the baby needs. However, mothers should keep in mind that the 300 calories should come from a healthy food source. Adding 300 calories from snacks, chips, fried food and similar is not recommended.

Protein. When it comes to protein, 3 servings per day are recommended which accounts for about 75g. Protein is essential building block of the muscles and human cells, all of which leads to a healthy baby. Best sources for protein are: eggs, beef, milk, cheese, yogurt, fish, poultry, soy, whole-grain breads and cereal, beans and nuts.

Calcium. Four servings per day are recommended. The best source is milk, so mothers should expect to drink lots of it during their pregnancy. Calcium is essential for developing bones for the baby, and keeping mother’s bones strong. Beside milk, mothers can consume yogurt, cheese, and canned salmon with bones, cooked greens, and broccoli.

Vitamin C. Fresh supply of vitamin C is needed every day, three times. Sources for vitamin C are infinite which include fruits like orange, mango, berries, grapefruit, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, watermelon and papaya, or vegetables (peppers, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, and spinach). Vitamin C helps boost* the immune system of both the baby and the mother, and is also good for skin health.

Green Leafy Vegetables and Yellow Vegetables and Fruits. All these are rich in vitamin E, B6, folic acid, riboflavin, magnesium and other minerals and vitamins needed for a healthy baby. To reach the recommended dose, mothers should include 3 or 4 servings daily from vegetables like romaine lettuce, asparagus, spinach, carrots, red bell pepper, broccoli and yams. Most recommended fruit selections for pregnant mothers include peaches, apricots and mango.

Other Fruits. Never enough of fruits and vegetables during pregnancy? Besides the already mentioned fruits and vegetables, other fruits (bananas, cherries, apples, plums and pears) and vegetables (corn, mushrooms, cucumber) should be included in the diet with 1 to 2 servings daily.

Whole Grains and Legumes. These grains supply mothers with enough carbs, and help curb nausea, fatigue, constipation, headaches and mood swings. They are also good for the baby as they contain zinc and iron. Six servings per day are recommended, and mothers can source them from whole-grain breads, beans cereals, pastas, rice, wheat berries, lentils, couscous, bulgur, and wild rice.

Iron-Rich Foods. Mothers need to increase* iron intake as the baby is forming its blood cells. There are plenty of iron-rich food to choose from including sardines, beef, duck, dried fruit, soy products, spinach, and cooked dried beans.

Fats. Recommended dose for fats is 4 servings per day depending on the weight gain. However, mothers need to keep in mind that not all fats are good fats. Healthy fats are required, so mothers should start cooking with canola and olive oil, add some avocado in their salads, and eat lots of nuts and seeds. Approximately 30% of calories should come from fats, but should be the healthy ones!

Salty foods. Hitting the right balance with salty foods is essential. Salt is needed, but not too much. Sodium adds up body’s fluid volume, but too much salt can otherwise lead to high blood pressure and excessive swelling. Mothers should target 2,400 mg of sodium per day.

Fluids. Future mothers should drink at least 8 ounce of glasses daily. Extra fluid helps reduce* toxins in the body, and helps with constipation and swelling. Fluids also flow to the fetus, delivering nutrients essential for his/her growth.

What are Prenatal Vitamins?

One vitamin per day is a must. And there is no substitute for prenatal supplements as they help balance the whole diet. There are many benefits of prenatal vitamins, but the most important is that it reduces* risk of having babies with neural tube effects.

  • Folate and Folic Acid. Folic acid is essential for building up the placenta and growth of the fetus. Folic acid is responsible for developing the brain and the spine in the early stages of pregnancy, and deficiency of folic acid can lead to formation of neural tube defects. Consuming enough folic acid reduces* risk of brain defects by around 70-80%. Recommended dose is 600-800 micrograms, and mothers should never take more than 1000 micrograms per day. Excessive intake of folic acid can mask Vitamin B 12 deficiency which can potentially lead to pernicious anemia. Sources for folic acid are: spinach, broccoli, beef and lamb meat, carrot, avocado, melon and cauliflower.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential during pregnancy for keeping proper levels of calcium and phosphorus, two minerals that build baby’s bones and teeth. Deficiency of vitamin D can lead to growth retardation and skeletal deformities and impact birth weight. Around 5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day is required during pregnancy. Mothers can source it from eggs, yogurt, cereals, milk, and cheese.

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Author

Expert Author : Peony C Echavez (Consumer Health Digest)

Peony is a registered nurse, and former Director of Nursing services for a large nursing facility. She has written web content for a large health education website, and currently creates content for a number of health practisioners.

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