Whether you're already a healthy eater or have a habit of grabbing whatever you can get your hands on, the fact of the matter is that a pregnant woman's food choices matter more than anyone else's! Your baby's health (not to mention the cost of your maternity insurance) will be directly affected by what you eat during your pregnancy, so choose wholesome, nutritious foods whenever possible.
How Much Weight Will I Gain?
Healthy women can expect to gain about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy – usually 3-5 pounds during the first trimester and then 1-2 pounds a week during the second and third trimesters. If you were underweight before conceiving, you should expect to gain 38-40 pounds, while women who are overweight or obese will need to gain about half of that. About seven pounds of this weight gain will be fat storage, which your body needs to nurture a child – the rest will be increased fluids and the weight of the baby itself!
Iron can be obtained from many different sources, and is especially important for pregnant women. Iron is a necessary component of hemoglobin, or red blood cells, which your body will be making more and more of as the baby inside develops. By the end of your pregnancy, you may have as much as 60% more blood pumping through your veins! Good dietary sources of iron include leafy green vegetables like spinach and collard greens, lean protein, and whole grains. Aim for 27 milligrams a day.
Calcium is required to build your baby's bones and teeth, and will also help regulate the flow of fluids within the body. Aim for 1000 milligrams a day, to be obtained via healthy sources such as whole milk, hard cheeses, pasteurized yogurt, dark green leafy vegetables like chard and kale, tofu, or safely sourced fish such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Three cups of skim milk will fulfill your daily calcium requirements on days when you are concerned about meeting the minimum – simply add it to smoothies or sauces!
Folate or folic acid plays a role in reducing your baby's chances of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Experts recommend 600 to 800 micrograms per day. This is generally easy to obtain simply by eating healthy, whole, unprocessed foods such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, split peas, navy beans and other legumes, oranges, mango, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, turnips, cabbage, lettuce, and chickpeas. Keep in mind that 1 milligram contains 1000 micrograms, so you actually need less than 1 milligram per day.
Protein, fats, and carbohydrates play an important role in any person's diet, and this is especially true for pregnant women! Protein aids in the formation of your baby's vital organs and muscles, including the brain, and fats and carbohydrates will fuel you both. Aim to get the majority of your macronutrients from lean meats, healthy sources of fat like olive oil and avocados, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Just because you crave hot dogs with pickle relish or your granny's pound cake doesn't mean they're good for you or your baby!
With common sense and good information, you should have no trouble feeding both your baby and yourself the right foods during pregnancy.
Article on Pregnancy Nutrition
Eating well becomes even more essential when you become pregnant. It is important that your nutritional intake considers the needs of both you and your developing baby.
The recommendation is to eat well balanced meals that are supplemented with prenatal vitamins. Once you are pregnant it is important to include the following in your daily dietary intake:
- 4 or more servings of fruits and vegetables
- 6 to 11 servings of whole-grain or enriched bread or cereal
- 4 or more servings of milk or dairy products for calcium
- 3 or more servings of meat or protein
Additionally you want to make sure that you get the following vitamins and minerals:
- 800mcg of vitamin A & Beta Carotene
- 10mcg of vitamin D
- 800mcg of vitamin E
- 60-85mg of vitamin C
- 1.5mg of Thiamin/B1
- 1.6mg of Riboflavin/B2
- 2mg of Niacin/B3
- 450mg of Pyridoxine/B6
- 600mcg of Folic Acid
- 1,200-1,600 mg of Calcium
- 27-30mg of Iron
- 60mg of protein
- 15mg of Zinc