Nutrition During Pregnancy

August 26, 2023

Nutrition During Pregnancy

Your body goes through lots of physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. To fuel yourself and your growing baby, you’ll need to make great food choices from a variety of sources.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you feel good and provide everything you and your baby need. The food you eat is your baby’s main source of nourishment, so it’s critical to get all of the nutrients you need.

Dietary and Caloric Recommendations

To maintain a healthy pregnancy, approximately 300 extra calories are needed each day. These calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Sweets and fats should be kept to a minimum. A healthy, well-balanced diet can also help to reduce some pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and constipation.

Fluid Intake During Pregnancy

Fluid intake is also an important part of pregnancy nutrition. Follow these recommendations for fluid intake during pregnancy:

  • You can take in enough fluids by drinking 8 to 10 big glasses of water each day, in addition to the fluids in juices and soups. Talk to your doctor about restricting your intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid all forms of alcohol.

Ideal Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

The following foods are beneficial to your health and fetal development during pregnancy:

  • Vegetables: Carrots, spinach, cooked greens, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, tomatoes and red sweet peppers (for vitamin A and potassium)
  • Fruits: Prunes, bananas, apricots, oranges, and red or pink grapefruit (for potassium)
  • Dairy: Fat-free or low-fat yogurt, skim or 1% milk, soymilk (for calcium, potassium, vitamins A and D)
  • Grains: Ready-to-eat cereals/cooked cereals (for iron and folic acid)
  • Proteins: Beans and peas; nuts and seeds; salmon

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Avoid eating the following foods during pregnancy:

  • Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk.
  • Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs and meat.
  • Refrigerated meat spreads.
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood.

Guidelines for Safe Food Handling

Follow these general food safety guidelines when handling and cooking food:

  • Wash: Rinse all raw produce thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting or cooking.
  • Clean: Wash your hands, knives, countertops and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
  • Cook: Cook poultry to a safe internal temperature verified by a food thermometer.
  • Chill: Promptly refrigerate all perishable food.

Prenatal Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Most doctors will prescribe a prenatal supplement before conception or shortly afterward to make sure that all of your nutritional needs are met. However, a prenatal supplement does not replace a healthy diet.

The Importance of Folic Acid

Experts recommend that all women of childbearing age to consume 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid is a nutrient found in:

  • Some green leafy vegetables
  • Most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits and fortified breakfast cereals
  • Some vitamin supplements.

Folic acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects, which are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Neural tube defects can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence and sometimes intellectual disability.

Folic acid is most helpful during the first 28 days after conception, when most neural tube defects occur. Unfortunately, you may not realize that you are pregnant before 28 days. Therefore, your intake of folic acid should begin before conception and continue throughout your pregnancy. Your health care provider or midwife will recommend the appropriate amount of folic acid to meet your individual needs.

For example, women who take anti-epileptic drugs may need to take higher doses of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. They should consult with doctor when considering trying to conceive.

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