We’ve all heard the phrase “Eating for Two” when referring to a woman’s unique nutritional needs during pregnancy, but there are a lot of myths behind what this saying really means. Pregnancy is not a reason to eat twice as much, but rather a reason to be twice as careful about what you eat and what you choose not to eat, as everything you consume during pregnancy affects your baby. During your pregnancy, the calories you need to consume will increase slightly, as will the nutrients and quality of the food you are consuming. Whether proper nutrition has always been a priority to you or you’re looking at an overhaul to your nutrition, pregnancy is an ideal time to make positive improvements to your eating habits, as there are several lasting benefits for you and your baby. Research has shown that well-nourished mothers have an easier labor with fewer complications, are less likely to develop pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, premature birth, and gestational diabetes, and have fewer problems with morning sickness, heartburn, fatigue, etc. As for your baby, he or she is a healthier weight at birth, less likely to experience developmental delays, and are less likely to experience complications during and immediately following birth. With these benefits in mind, here are the top Do’s & Don’ts for nutrition during pregnancy:
1. DO INCREASE YOUR CALORIES SLIGHTLY (SECOND AND THIRD TRIMESTERS) BY AN ADDITIONAL 300-500.
These additional calories are neccessary as you enter the second and third trimesters to ensure your growing baby gets the nutrients he or she needs. Additional calories should come from nutrient-dense foods including lean protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruit, etc.
*Mothers carrying multiples should consume an additional 250 calories on top of the 300-500.
2. DO INCREASE THESE NUTRIENTS:
- 25 grams extra protein (total protein = 100 grams) *Mothers carrying multiples should consume an additional 25 grams of protein on top of the 25
- 800 milligrams extra calcium (total calcium = 1,400-1,600 milligrams)
- 400 micrograms extra folate/folic acid (total folate/folic acid = 600-800 micrograms)
- 12 milligrams extra iron (total iron = 30 milligrams)
- 500-600 milligrams extra DHA (total Omega 3 = 1,000 milligrams EPA/DHA)
3. DO INCREASE YOUR WATER INTAKE
During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by 40 percent. You will need extra water for this increased blood volume, for the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby, and also to help you digest your food and eliminate waste products. There are additional benefits such as helping you to avoid constipation and urinary tract infections, which are common ailments during pregnancy. Aim to drink ½ ounce of water per pound of body weight. If you weren’t a big water drinker before, try tips such as finding a water bottle you like to bring with you everywhere you go. Not a fan of the bland taste? Try flavoring the water with slices of lemon or fruit to make it more enjoyable.
4. DON’T EAT UNHEALTHY CARBS AKA “JUNK FOOD”
While unhealthy carbs are very convenient, they are very easy to overeat, and they can lead to unnecessary weight gain and erratic changes in blood sugar. Sometimes that food industry makes it difficult to spot these “junk carbs,” so teach yourself to recognize them by reading food labels. For example, junk carbs are not combined with fiber and proteins, which slow down the body’s absorption of carbohydrates. Instead, you will find that they often times include sugars and contain “corn syrup” or “high fructose corn syrup.” While it’s probably not realistic that you will completely avoid junk food while pregnant (Dorito craving perhaps?), try to opt for healthy carbs or “combo carbs,” which are naturally combined with fiber and proteins (and sometimes fat). Examples of these carbs include beans, fruits, nuts and nut butters, whole grains, sweet potatoes, vegetables, yogurt, etc.
5. DON’T WARD OFF ALL FISH FOR FEAR OF MERCURY
Many women hear about the need to avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury during pregnancy and tend to avoid all fish for fear of consuming this mercury that has been linked to developmental delays and brain damage. Because it’s so important to get the proper amount of Omega 3s during pregnancy which can be found in many wild fish sources, instead try to be smarter about the type of fish you eat during pregnancy. Opt for wild-caught Alaskan salmon, non-albacore tuna, and sardines, which are all high in Omega 3 and avoid high-mercury sources of fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Want to make sure you’re safe? You can refer here for specific types of fish and their mercury levels.
6. DON’T EAT ONLY 3 TIMES PER DAY
Rather than the idea of 3 larger meals per day, try to adopt 6 smaller (fist sized) meals a day. Not only does this help with morning sickness by ensuring your stomach isn’t empty, but it also helps to maintain stable blood sugar. Additionally, later in pregnancy, as your baby takes up more space, you may find that heartburn can become an issue. Eating these smaller meals often minimizes the discomfort of having a full stomach which can help to ward off heartburn.
If you follow these nutritional guidelines, you and your baby will be healthier and you will feel better throughout your pregnancy. However, it’s not always easy to make healthy lifestyle changes, so if you want support implementing these changes, a health coach can help you achieve goals such as changing your pregnancy diet. Contact me if you would like to schedule a free consultation to discuss how we could work together! You can also sign up for our 30 day prenatal meal plan (available May 11, 2018), which is a nutritional guide with 30 days of meals tailored to the unique nutritional needs of a pregnant woman. The guide also includes other helpful nutrition tips and education to help you truly thrive in your pregnancy.