Let’s keep this simple...A well balanced, nutrient dense diet is the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. Improving the nutrition of the pregnant woman is scientifically proven to produce healthier babies and make a difference in preventing preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and other complications of pregnancy. Getting ample protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and oils and good-quality salt in your diet, as well as minimizing sugar are the keys to good prenatal nutrition.
So, what constitutes a well balanced, nutrient dense prenatal diet?
Water: It is vitally important to stay hydrated during pregnancy. The general rule of thumb is somewhere between eight and ten 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Why Water? Water helps your body absorb essential nutrients into the cells and transports vitamins, minerals and hormones to the blood cells. It's those nutrient-rich blood cells that reach the placenta and ultimately your baby. Additionally, staying well hydrated helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and urinary tract infections and helps prevent swelling (edema), overheating and headaches.
Protein: Protein requirements are 30% to 70% higher in pregnancy (depending on stage of pregnancy) At least twice a day the pregnant woman should eat a high quality protein source that is about the size of the palm of her hand (80 -100 grams total). Sources of protein include *eggs, dairy, *fish, meat (beef, poultry, pork etc), soy (tofu and tempeh), legumes (beans, lentils quinoa), nuts and seeds and high quality protein powder.
Why Protein? The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of your body's cells – and of your baby's body as well. Additionally. maintaining a diet that is rich in high quality protein minimizes the risk of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. It’s important to get enough protein throughout your pregnancy, but it's especially critical during the second and third trimesters.
*Let’s Talk about Eggs: The suggestion is two eggs per day. The whole egg – whites and yolk.
Why Eggs? Eggs are a good source of protein that provide the amino acids you and your baby need. They contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including choline (found only in the yolks), which is good for baby's brain development. Avoid eating undercooked or raw eggs.
*Let’s Talk about Fish, Shellfish and Seafood: It is preferable to eat wild, low-mercury fish like sardines, salmon and trout. The general rule of thumb is: The smaller the fish the less mercury it contains. Limit tuna intake and avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish which all have high levels of mercury contamination.
What about Sushi? The main worry about pregnant women eating sushi comes from the fear
of parasites. However, fish is almost always flash frozen to transport, which kills parasites There is no scientific evidence linking pregnant women eating sushi with health risks to babies or complications with pregnancies. In fact, in Japan eating raw fish is considered part of good neonatal nutrition as long as the
fish isn't high in mercury levels (salmon is a safe pick!) DO NOT EAT RAW SEAFOOD!
Calcium/Milk: At least four servings a day. There are lots of healthy options for calcium including milk, cheese and yogurt. And, don’t forget nuts, olives, broccoli, kale.
Why Calcium? Your developing baby needs calcium to build strong bones and
teeth. Calcium also helps your baby grow a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles as well as develop a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting
abilities. Calcium can also reduce your risk of hypertension and preeclampsia.
Green Vegetables (The more the merrier!):Broccoli, spinach, cabbage and kale reign supreme for vitamins, minerals & antioxidants. You really can’t over do it! Suggestion: Try blending your greens with a banana, a handful of berries, hemp hearts, protein powder and nut butter for a fantastic smoothie:)
Why Green Vegetables? Green vegetables contain many of the nutrients pregnant women need, including fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium and antioxidants. EAT YOUR GREENS!!
Vitamin C (At least 1 serving daily): Citrus fruits such as oranges, kiwis, lemons, guavas, grapefruits. Other vitamin C-rich fruits include papaya, cantaloupe and strawberries. Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and peppers are also rich, natural sources of vitamin C.
Why Vitamin C? Both you and your baby need vitamin C daily because it's necessary for the body to make collagen, a structural protein that's a component of cartilage, tendons, bones, and skin. Vitamin C helps your body fight infections and acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.
Other Fruits (1 serving): Apples, Bananas, Berries, Melons, Stone Fruit etc. Please limit the intake of dried fruits and fruit juices as these are high in concentrated sugar and calories. Why Fruit? Fruit is an excellent source of nutrients that are essential during pregnancy. Fruits can provide vitamins, folate, fibre, and more, which all help to keep the woman and baby healthy.
Healthy Fats: Use healthy fats such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and flax seed oil. Full-fat dairy products, avocados, meats, and nuts are also good healthy sources of fat.
Why Fat? Fat is especially important for the proper development of your baby’s nervous system. Additionally, dietary fats provide your body with energy and support healthy cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body to absorb nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Fat does not make you fat. Eat healthy fats.
Whole Grains (4 servings): Brown rice, whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers, barley, buckwheat, bulgar, faro, oatmeal, millet.
Why Whole Grains? Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including fibre, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium and selenium). Fibre is important for healthy bowel function and helps reduce constipation which can lead to hemorrhoids. B vitamins help the body release energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates. Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Magnesium is a mineral used in building bones and
releasing energy from muscles. Selenium is important for a healthy immune system. Need I say more?
Sodium/Salt: Salt to taste with good quality salt. Using good quality, mineral-rich salt is important. Himalayan salt and Celtic sea salt are healthy, good quality salts.
Why Salt? Every cell of the body needs salt. It is important for the body to function properly.
Food or Substances to Avoid or Limit: (in addition to those outlined above)
Supplements and Vitamins: It is advisable to take a good quality prenatal vitamin, iron and folic acid.
Why Prenatal Vitamins? Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are specially formulated to meet the increased demand for micronutrients during pregnancy.
Why Iron?Your body uses iron to make extra blood (hemoglobin) for you and your baby during pregnancy. Iron also helps move oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body - and to your baby's. Getting enough iron can prevent a condition of too few red blood cells called iron deficiency anemia.
Why Folic Acid? Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. It gets converted into the active form of folate in the body. Folate is a B vitamin that plays an integral role in DNA synthesis, red blood cell production and fetal growth and development.
How to Curb Unhealthy Cravings:
Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols RDN, CDE
The Brewer Diet developed by Dr. Thomas Brewer
Pregnancy Nutrition by Trimester- Lamaze International