Feeling hungrier, battling heartburn, or contemplating the “eating for two” myth? Navigating the world of pregnancy nutrition can be a challenge with its mix of truths and myths. That’s why we’ve crafted this Pregnancy Nutrition Guide to help you grasp everything you need for a healthier diet during pregnancy!
Why does diet and nutrition in pregnancy matter?
Maintaining a nutritious diet during pregnancy is crucial for both maternal health and the healthy development of the baby. A proper diet can contribute to ensuring the baby is born at a healthy weight, reducing the risk of complications during childbirth. It also aids in preventing congenital deficiencies and other issues that could impact the baby’s health.
Keeping a good diet during pregnancy can also help combat or reduce the risk of complications such as gestational diabetes, one of the common causes of premature births. Additionally, it provides the mother with more energy and an overall better feeling during pregnancy.
However, numerous beliefs and popular myths arise when it comes to a pregnant woman’s diet. Let’s clarify some of them, review expert recommendations, and discuss what can be beneficial and what should be avoided.
Join us on this journey!
Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
Eating is delightful, especially with the heightened senses and hormones of a pregnant woman. However, some foods are more likely to cause infections or food allergies and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Paying closer attention to your food choices and following some safety rules when handling food can significantly reduce the risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
Generally, these foods should be avoided during pregnancy:
Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and seafood
These foods may be contaminated with bacteria or parasites that can cause food poisoning. If consuming them outside of your home, where you have less control over their handling, be cautious. At home, opt for cooking meat, poultry, and seafood at a high temperature to kill any harmful bacteria or parasites.
Unpasteurized milk and cheese
Choose milk and cheeses that have undergone the pasteurization process instead of unpasteurized alternatives. Pasteurization involves heating the product to a certain temperature for a relatively extended period and then cooling it to a much lower temperature. This process kills bacteria commonly found in dairy products that can cause food poisoning.
Raw eggs may be contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, leading to food poisoning. Pregnant women should avoid foods containing raw eggs, such as raw cookie dough or homemade Caesar dressing.
Certain types of fish
Some fish may contain high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to the baby’s development. Some fish known to have high mercury levels include shark or swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and more. It’s also worth checking your specific region, especially if there’s a nearby hydroelectric plant.
Generally, sausages are not entirely safe for pregnant women. Consuming hot dogs outside, where you’re uncertain about the preparation, can be risky. It’s best to eat hot dogs only if you’re certain they were cooked at a high temperature (grilled, fried, or boiled).
Alcohol can be harmful to the developing baby and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake to 200 milligrams per day or less, equivalent to a maximum of two cups per day. It’s essential to note that coffee isn’t the only caffeine-containing food we consume. Soft drinks and black teas also have high caffeine levels, easily exceeding the recommended maximum in just one cup.
It’s crucial to avoid foods with a high salt content, such as frozen and processed foods (lasagna, frozen pizzas, ham, sausage, among others).
It’s essential to discuss your specific dietary needs and any concerns you may have with your doctor.
Tips for a Healthy Diet in Pregnancy
Seems challenging? Don’t worry; not everything in life involves restrictions! It’s entirely possible to enjoy your pregnancy without obsessing over what you can or cannot eat. Here are our pregnancy nutrition tips:
Keep your plates colorful as a rainbow
Consume a variety of foods rich in different nutrients to ensure you and your baby receive all the necessary nutrients. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Your friend, the Folic Acid
Include foods rich in folic acid in your diet, such as dark green leafy vegetables, beans, and fortified grains. Folic acid is crucial for the healthy development of your baby’s brain and spine.
Iron-Rich Foods: Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells, transporting oxygen to your baby and helping combat anemia. Foods like red meat, fish, beans, and leafy greens are rich in iron.
Calcium to the bones!
Calcium is vital for the development of your baby’s bones and teeth, helping you avoid cramps. Some calcium-rich foods include dairy, vegetables, and natural orange juice.
Animal and Plant Proteins
Protein is crucial for the growth and repair of your baby’s and your body tissues, contributing to a smooth recovery postpartum. Some protein-rich foods include red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.
Bring on the Omega-3
Consume foods rich in fatty acids and omega-3, such as tuna, nuts, and seeds. Omega-3 is essential for the development of your baby’s brain and eyes.
Adequate fluid intake is essential to stay hydrated during pregnancy. Water is crucial for the production of amniotic fluid and maintaining healthy circulation. If you tend to forget to drink water easily, you can use a mobile app to remind you to drink water throughout the day.
For Vegans and Vegetarians
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, ensure you maintain a diversified diet to obtain all the necessary nutrients that might be more challenging to get without meat, such as proteins, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12. Consult your nutritionist or doctor to evaluate the need for supplementation.
Attention to Allergies
If you’re pregnant and have food allergies or sensitivities, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about managing allergies and finding substitutes for these foods in your diet.
If you have gestational diabetes, it’s crucial to follow a healthy eating plan to keep your blood sugar levels in check. In this case, it’s imperative to be supervised by a specialist doctor or nutritionist to develop a pregnancy nutrition plan tailored to your needs and follow it correctly.
Do pregnants really need to eat for two?
It’s not scientifically accurate to say that pregnant women need to eat for two. While pregnant women have increased nutritional needs, they don’t need to consume twice the amount they did before pregnancy.
During the first trimester, the mother’s nutritional needs don’t significantly increase. It’s in the second and third trimesters that nutritional requirements rise to support the baby’s growth and development. However, this doesn’t mean pregnant women should aim to consume double the calories they did before pregnancy.
The ideal approach is for expectant women to maintain a well-balanced diet in pregnancy that includes a variety of foods from all food groups. Special attention should be given to the intake of certain nutrients, such as folic acid, iron, and calcium. However, attempting to consume twice the calories from before pregnancy is not recommended.
Pregnant women should also monitor their weight gain during pregnancy and strive to gain weight at a healthy rate. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications for both the mother and the baby.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and expected, accounting for the normal weight plus the weight of the baby, amniotic fluid, and the placenta. The amount of weight considered safe and healthy to gain during the entire pregnancy depends on various factors, including pre-pregnancy weight, body mass index (BMI), and specific pregnancy needs.
The Institute of Medicine has established guidelines for recommended weight gain during pregnancy based on pre-pregnancy BMI. These guidelines are as follows:
- Normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9) before pregnancy: Aim for a gain between 11 and 15 kilograms during pregnancy.
- Underweight BMI (less than 18.5) before pregnancy: Aim to gain between 13 and 18 kilograms during pregnancy.
- Overweight BMI (25 to 29.9) before pregnancy: Aim to gain between 6 and 11 kilograms during pregnancy.
- Obese BMI (30 or more) before pregnancy: Aim to gain between 5 and 9 kilograms during pregnancy.
It’s essential to note that these are generic guidelines, and the specific weight gain recommended for your particular case may vary based on your individual circumstances. This should be discussed with your doctor to determine the specific recommendations for your case.
In general, it’s crucial to gain weight at a healthy pace to support the baby’s normal growth and development and reduce the risk of complications for both the mother and the baby.