Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy
The old adage “You’re eating for two now” isn’t exactly accurate. It’s true, both you and your baby can benefit from good nutrition– but the expression doesn’t extend to caloric intake. The same good eating habits that keep your body healthy when you are not pregnant should be applied during pregnancy.
A well-balanced diet containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein will help ensure both you and your baby receive the needed nutrients. Only around 300 extra calories a day are needed in the last two trimesters of pregnancy—approximately the equivalent of a cup of whole milk and a large banana.
Websites like www.choosemyplate.gov from the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help you plan your meals during pregnancy and show you the correct foods and amounts you need to consume.
Other Dietary Essentials in Pregnancy
In addition to the basic five food groups, plant fats and oils (found in nuts, olives and avocados) are beneficial to the development of the placenta and fetal organs. Omega-3 fatty acids also provide important nutritional benefits and aid in fetal brain development. These are found in certain fish like shrimp, salmon and catfish, which should be consumed twice a week.
High mercury content fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish should be avoided. Talk with your OB/GYN about the types of fish you can safely eat.
Vitamins and minerals are also important. Since it is difficult to reach appropriate levels through diet alone, your obstetrician will probably suggest a prenatal vitamin supplement during pregnancy.
Important vitamins and minerals and their role in pregnancy include:
- Folic Acid – This B vitamin helps prevent fetal neural tube defects that affect your baby’s brain and spine
- Calcium and vitamin D – these important nutrients work together to aid in your baby’s development, especially teeth and bones
- Iron – Helpful to mom and baby, iron is used to make blood and meet oxygen needs
- Most women who are a normal weight before pregnancy should plan on gaining between 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. If you were above or below your ideal weight prior to pregnancy, talk with your OB/GYN about how much weight to gain.
- To avoid food poisoning and food-borne illnesses, remember to wash all raw fruits and vegetables and avoid raw meat and eggs.
- Make sure all milk is pasteurized.