Nutrition Tips for Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

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For women of all races in different countries, reproduction involves considerable physiologic stress, as pregnancy, childbirth and lactation make great nutritional demands on their bodies and are accompanied by additional health hazards.

If you are overweight, it’s a good idea to lose some extra pounds before getting pregnant, since weight loss diets are not recommended during pregnancy. Your physical health as well as your dietary health determines whether you are going to have an easy or difficult pregnancy. It is always better if you get a complete check-up from your doctor before planning to conceive. If you have diabetes, hypothyroidism, asthma or hypertension, you should always consult with your doctor to make sure everything is under control and you are on the proper medication. This will ensure your chances of getting pregnant and helping your baby grow and develop under the best conditions.

Before Pregnancy, Consider The Following Points

  • For optimal health, you should be aware that three important areas are essential which include exercise, adequate sleep and proper nutrition. So begin with a solid exercise program and start incorporating a nutrient dense diet into your routine along with plenty of quality sleep to help with recovery.
  • You should try to lose some weight if you are currently overweight, as expectant mothers are not allowed to do any dieting during pregnancy.
  • Stop smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages a few months before getting pregnant. This will help to get your body ready for being without these two vices during the 9 months of pregnancy.
  • Check with your doctor if you are required to supplement your diet with any specific vitamins.
  • Make sure you are getting enough folic acid. One milligram a day for at least three months before getting pregnant helps prevent some certain birth defects.
  • Optimal nutrition of the father is also very important also and a diet rich in selenium and zinc is recommended for better reproduction.
  • Limit your intake of trans-fats and processed sugars. Try to incorporate healthy fats like walnuts, flaxseed and almonds in your diet.

Preparing for Pregnancy

It is better to have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of around 18-25 before getting pregnant, as this will help prevent many complications due to being overweight. Pregnant mothers who have a BMI of 35 or higher have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, c-section deliveries and postpartum hemorrhages. Excess weight and the age of the mother also poses a risk for stillbirths and hyperglycemia in infants.You should focus on eating a nutrient dense diet that is loaded with antioxidants while drinking plenty of water each day.

Early Pregnancy

Once it is confirmed that you are pregnant, you should always plan a visit to your doctor to get proper medical supervision for your pregnancy. Fetal development is accompanied by extensive changes in the mother’s body composition and metabolism. There is a considerable increase in the nutritional needs of the mother as the pregnancy moves forward through the trimesters.

Energy Metabolism – Basal metabolism increases due to fetal development and energy requirements are increased during pregnancy.

Digestive Functions – There is some evidence of reduced gastric tone, motility and secretion which gives rise to nausea and vomiting. It may last anywhere from 6-12 weeks generally and in some cases it may last up to the 20th week or even longer.

Here are a Few Tips To Overcome Morning Sickness

  • Stay in bed for 15 minutes when first waking in the morning.
  • Breathe in fresh air and take deep, long breaths.
  • Eat small and frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Avoid greasy food (fast food, junk food and processed food).
  • Try adding ginger to your food (aids in digestion and saliva flow)
  • Avoid foods that have an odor or weird smell to them.
  • Take a multivitamin at night, especially vitamin B6 which helps to control morning sickness.

It is extremely important to follow a proper nutrition plan to help your baby grow optimally and to keep yourself in shape while you are pregnant. Women with an average weight before getting pregnant should gain around 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Women who are underweight should gain around 28-40 pounds during pregnancy. Overweight women should only gain around 15-25 pounds during pregnancy.

Nutrition During Pregnancy

Diet is a major factor during pregnancy and has a profound influence on the health of the mother. As women are more susceptible to infection at this stage, it is advised to eat nutrient dense home-cooked meals to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses which could be caused by eating out at restaurants (illness caused by food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins).

Folic Acid – Dark green leafy vegetables, legumes and citrus fruits should be eaten to avoid neural tube defect in the fetus. The mother’s diet should be supplemented with 400-500 micrograms of folic acid up until 12 weeks of the pregnancy.

Iodine – For proper brain and nervous system development of the fetus, the pregnant mother should consume iodized salt.

Iron – Deficiency of iron poses risk of low birth weight and pre-term delivery. Iron is very important in the second half of pregnancy. You should include lean meats, dates, apricots, nuts, raisins, pomegranate and green leafy vegetables into your diet in order to get a good amount of iron in your body. Pregnant women should focus on getting 25-27 mg of iron per day. Foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes and broccoli will help in the absorption of iron.

Calcium – For pregnant women, 1,000-1,300 mg of calcium is required to prevent leaching from your bones and it avoids osteoporosis in the later stages of your life. Dairy, fortified soy products, sesame seeds and calcium are rich sources of calcium. It also helps to strengthen your bones and teeth.

Vitamin D – For proper absorption of calcium, 600 IU of vitamin D is required for pregnant women. Egg yolks, oily fish and liver are recommended. Vitamin D helps keep your bones healthy and provides your baby with enough vitamin D to last during the first few months of their life.

The Balance of Optimal Health

Fruits and Vegetables – Try to consume at least five servings per day. This might include a glass of freshly squeezed fruit juice along with frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and veggies are always the best!

Starchy Foods – Healthy carbs are important during pregnancy and healthy starches include oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and quinoa.

Meat, Fish, Poultry, Eggs, Cheese, Beans – Include 2-3 servings of these protein rich foods each day. Eat fish at least 2 times per week for the proper formation of nerve cells and the retina of the eye. Include walnuts for healthy omega-3 fatty acids which help with proper brain development of the fetus, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy. You can also ask your doctor or a dietitian to prescribe a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids and DHA during your pregnancy. Avoid seafood like tuna, swordfish and king mackerel because of the risk of mercury and lead.

Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) – It is recommended to consume 3-4 servings of cheese, milk and yogurt per day and focus on low-fat options to avoid excessive weight gain.

Options for Healthy Snacks

  • Whole wheat wrap with salmon or grilled chicken and veggies.
  • A salad with vegetables (washed thoroughly) along with apricots, figs or prunes.
  • Hummus with veggies.
  • Low-fat yogurt.
  • Fresh fruit.
  • Baked beans or a baked potato.
  • Protein shakes.
  • Vegetable and lentil soups.
  • Fresh fruit juice
  • Dates or dried fruit.

Precautions To Take During Pregnancy

Besides eating a variety of nutrient dense whole foods, certain precautions should be taken to safeguard the baby’s and the mother’s health:

  • Cook all meats and poultry thoroughly and wash surfaces and utensils properly to avoid foodborne illnesses.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with solution of salt and vinegar with water to remove all pathogens.
  • Make sure eggs are thoroughly cooked to avoid infection (salmonella). Avoid foods with raw and undercooked eggs like homemade mayonnaise, ice cream, cheesecake or mousse.
  • Limit your intake of tea, coffee to a maximum of 2 cups since too much caffeine will affect the birth weight of your baby.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learned some helpful nutritional tips about how to eat healthy during your pregnancy so you can stay fit and energized. Eating a clean diet with optimal nutrients during your pregnancy will help nourish your baby while keeping your body and mind in tip-top shape!

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About Author

Tanweer Fatima

Tanweer Fatima is a health, wellness and fitness professional from Saudi Arabia who specializes in nutrition.

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