Pregnancy Diet: What to Eat When You're Pregnant
You’re eating for two but what should you be eating? Use our pregnancy diet guide to ensure optimal health for you and your bundle.
Why Eating Right Is Important
Sure, you know skipping breakfast and feasting on Pop-Tarts is a bad idea now. New studies show that the benefits of healthy eating are even more significant than previously known. An Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children's Hospital study found that women who eat a high fat diet are more likely to have babies that have higher fat mass and smaller livers. Another recent study concluded that taking prenatal vitamins may reduce the risk of having children with autism. The benefits of eating right are undeniable but what exactly should you be eating?
What to Eat
An expectant mom should consume an extra 300 calories each day. It’s tempting to grab a pint of Cherry Garcia and dig in but unfortunately our friends Ben and Jerry don’t have the right stuff for supporting healthy fetal development and growth. The extra calories you eat should come from nutrient-rich food that supports you and your growing baby. There isn’t one perfect pregnancy diet but for the most part, eating a well-balanced diet – lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins, will give your baby what he needs. However there are a few nutrients that are essential to a healthy pregnancy diet.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, a naturally occurring B vitamin found in many foods. Researchers recommend that women get 600 micrograms of folic acid a day to reduce the risk of serious birth defects. According to Lisa Brown, registered dietician and co-owner of Brown and Medina Nutrition, “The best way to get this micronutrient is through whole grains, citrus fruits, fortified hot and cold cereal.” But don’t rely solely on diet, a prenatal vitamin.
Your baby is dependent on protein to grow. The USDA recommends 71 grams a protein a day and getting enough is especially important in the second and third trimesters. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, and lentils.
A calcium rich diet will give you and your baby strong bones and teeth. Calcium also keeps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems in tip-top shape. USDA nutritionists recommend 1,000 milligrams a day. Dairy is the preferred source of calcium but salmon, calcium-fortified orange juice, and spinach are good too.
Vitamin D helps build your baby’s bones and teeth. The RDA for pregnant women is 600 IU a day. Salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D as are fortified milk and juice, asparagus, and eggs.
Get enough iron during your pregnancy (27 milligrams a day) to minimize the risk of preterm labor and low birth weight. It’s not just vital for your new womb-mate – an iron deficiency during pregnancy can leave you susceptible to infections and feeling fatigued. Find iron in iron-fortified cereals, meat, beans, and spinach. Iron from plant sources is not as easily absorbed by the body – boost absorption by pairing iron-rich foods with ones high in vitamin C.
Help! I Don’t Cook. Can I Still Have a Healthy Prenatal Diet?
You don’t have to cook your own meals to have a healthy pregnancy diet. “It can be as easy as fresh avocado, baby carrots, hummus, and whole wheat pita bread - or quickly sautéing some chicken and picking up some steamed veggies and brown rice from the local Chinese restaurant.” say Brown. She also suggests that you stock your freezer with easy-to-make, healthy eats like wild salmon filets, turkey burgers, and veggies.
Whenever possible, try and stay away from packaged and processed foods. And when it comes to bottled drinks and canned goods, limit your exposure of those that contain BPA (bisphenol-A). BPA is a toxic chemical that may be harmful to a developing fetus.