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What to Eat During Pregnancy: A nutrition guide for expectant moms

Eating a well balanced diet is the key to a healthy pregnancy — after all, your baby eats whatever you do. With the recommended amount of food from each of the five major food groups, you might even be able to skip out on supplements and additional vitamins. The start to a healthy pregnancy diet is simple. Just follow these 7 tips:

  • Stick to a high-fiber diet during pregnancy. The more fiber you eat, the less constipated you will be.
  • Skin, tissue, and muscle growth rely on protein. Include it in every meal to help your baby grow.
  • Pregnancy is tiring. Complex carbohydrates that are high on the Glycemic Index will give you a kick-start.
  • Drinking about four and a half 16 oz. bottles of water per day will help cleanse your kidneys.
  • When in doubt, eat fresh. Avoid processed, packaged food whenever possible.
  • If you’re in need of a quick meal, skip out on frozen or fast food. Instead, make a simple salad or sandwich.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially since many cereals are now fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients. Give them a try.

If you’re unsure about which vitamins are important for a healthy pregnancy, follow this guide to learn what you need and where to get it. Remember, always consult a doctor before taking any supplements during pregnancy or while you’re breastfeeding. High dosages of certain vitamins, such as Vitamin A, can cause birth defects, and your child is particularly susceptible during the first trimester.

  • Vitamin A is essential for the development of cells. It prevents eye problems and promotes a healthy immune system and skin. It’s found mainly in orange fruits and veggies, some green vegetables, and in milk and eggs.
  • Vitamin B12 aids in the development red blood cells and nerve cell function. You can find it in most dairy products as well as poultry, red meat, and fish.
  • Vitamin B6 also helps in the development of red blood cells and helps your body break down proteins. It’s necessary for normal brain and nerve function and is in a wide variety of foods including meats, seeds, nuts, beans, bananas, and beyond.
  • Vitamin C has a number of benefits. It promotes healthy brain function, bones, teeth, gums, and blood vessels, helps the body absorb iron and calcium, and is used in the formation of collagen. It’s found in many fruits and juices including berries and orange juice as well as in vegetables like broccoli and spinach.
  • Vitamin D strengthens bones and can mostly be obtained with exposure to natural sunlight, so if you were thinking of taking a day at the beach, go for it (but always wear sunscreen to prevent skin damage). Vitamin D is also found in egg yolks, fish oil, and milk.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that prevents cell damage (including that of red blood cells). It’s found in many foods such as whole grains, vegetable oils, nuts, and leafy green veggies.
  • Calcium builds strong bones and is found mostly in dairy. It can also be found in dark green vegetables like broccoli and soy products.
  • Folate (Vitamin B9, Folic Acid): Your new baby is growing rapidly, especially in the first 6 to 12 weeks, and your body is working overtime to produce more blood cells. Folic acid can help. During pregnancy many women double their folic acid intake. You might want to consider a supplement, but always talk to your doctor first. If not, it can be found in leafy, green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits, and poultry.
  • Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen. It’s found in red meats, pork, seafood, beans and lentils, soy products, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Magnesium fosters healthy bones and muscle and nerve function (especially in the heart). It creates energy and protein in your body and, if you are craving something sweet, it’s even found in chocolate. It’s also in whole grains, potatoes, beans, nuts and seeds, certain vegetables, fruits, and more.
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) is found in most meats and peanuts. It promotes healthy skin and nerve function and helps the body turn food into energy.
  • Phosphorus can be found in most foods and is extremely important because every cell in the body needs it to function correctly. Not only does it help the body make energy, but it promotes healthy bones and teeth. Add more dairy or meat into your diet for the best results.
  • Potassium helps your body balance its water content and promotes healthy muscle and nervous system function. It’s found in many foods including leafy green vegetables, broccoli, dried fruits, citrus fruits, potatoes, and legumes.
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is the reason you feel more awake after eating carbohydrates — it turns them into energy. It also helps you see and produce red blood cells. Even though this vitamin is found in many foods, some of the foods that are richest in riboflavin are meat, eggs, dairy, nuts, and legumes. It’s also found in certain veggies, so eat up.
  • Zinc fosters immunity, growth, and healing. It’s in meats, dairy, whole grains, soy products, seafood, nuts and dried beans.

Although it may be tempting to down pints of ice cream and extra-large burritos now that you’re eating for two, experts say that pregnant women should eat an average of 300 extra calories during their first trimester, 350 during their second, and 500 towards the end of their pregnancy.

The latest weight gain guidelines put forth by the Institute of Medicine are based on a woman’s BMI. For a normal-weight woman, an average of 2,200 – 2,900 calories are suggested for the beginning of pregnancy, and the recommended range for gaining weight during pregnancy is 25 – 35 pounds. Check this with your doctor if you have any health concerns, such as being under- or overweight when you became pregnant, or special cases, such as carrying multiples.

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