Being pregnant implies some changes in diet for most women…

The average diet in western countries is not the healthiest so, when you discover that you are pregnant, you will most certainly have to make some adjustments in what you eat. After all it is not just a matter of taking care of yourself from now on. In fact, transitioning into a healthier diet will be the first step for improving your baby’s health and making sure that he or she grows healthy.

The most common nutrients you will have to increase in daily consumption are protein, folic acid, iron, some vitamins and minerals and an overall increase in calorie intake. The increase in calorie intake varies during the course of pregnancy and depends on your body mass index. If you are in the normal weight range you will not need to eat more in the first trimester, you will need about 300 more calories per day in the second trimester, and 450 more calories in the third trimester. You also have to consider that these values depend on the weight gain you present during each trimester.

Foods to avoid

You have to avoid certain food items when you are pregnant since they can be a source of bacteria or other substances that are dangerous for the baby. The most common food items to avoid are:

  • Raw seafood
  • Soft cheese
  • Pâté
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Saccharin sweetener

There are other things you have to avoid for different reasons. You should not eat too much sugar or junk food but it is ok to indulge yourself a little bit as long as you do not eat too much of these items. You cannot consume alcohol because it can cause physical and psychological problems in children. Also the consumption of fish should be limited due to the presence of methyl mercury that is harmful for brain development. Caffeine should also be limited to no more than 300 mg per day since, despite of the effects on pregnancy being controversial, it can possibly cause miscarriage, lower birth weight, or elevated heart rate of the baby. You should also decrease the consumption of fat and cholesterol to 30% total calories and 300mg, respectively.

Weight gain during pregnancy

Women who gain a correct amount of weight with the progress of pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a healthy baby. Having in mind that you have to gain weight can give rise to two kinds of problems; either you consider dieting to avoid gaining weight, or you think that you should eat for two and eat more than you need. You cannot diet while you are pregnant since most weight loss programs lack the essential nutrients your baby needs to develop. On the other hand, eating too much can lead to over-weight problems that are not healthy for the baby either. So just remember that you should eat a healthy balanced diet, and have defined weight gain goals as the pregnancy progresses depending on your weight before pregnancy:

  • Healthy weight. If you were in the normal weight range before you got pregnant, a healthy amount of weight to gain during pregnancy will be around 11 to 16kg. In the first trimester you should gain just 0.5 to 2.5kg and in the second and third trimesters around 500 grams per week.
  • If you were below the normal weight range before you got pregnant, a healthy amount of weight to gain during pregnancy will be around 13 to 18kg.
  • If you were above the normal weight range before you got pregnant, a healthy amount of weight to gain during pregnancy will be around 7 to 11 kilograms.

You also have to consider that this will vary from woman to woman, especially if you have other health issues such as thyroid problems and diabetes, or if you are carrying twins. You should talk to your doctor in order to check the amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy.

Foods you should eat

Sometimes, eating while pregnant can be challenging due to symptoms such as morning sickness in the first trimester, and heartburn or indigestion in the rest of the pregnancy. If you struggle to eat, try having more meals in smaller quantities spaced through the day. This is particularly helpful later on in pregnancy since your stomach has less space to accommodate a large meal. You should eat a variety of foods. This should include mostly grains (preferably whole grains), fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and protein. You have to assure that you eat foods that allow you to get enough daily calcium (1000-1300 mg), iodine (0.250 mg), iron (27 mg), vitamin A, vitamin C (70 mg) and folic acid (0.4 mg).

There are some foods that you can use to make a nutritious meal that is good both for you and your baby:

  • Beans are a vegetable full of healthy protein, minerals and fiber that can help you with some pregnancy symptoms affecting the intestines.
  • Eggs have a lot of protein and the advantage of packing a lot of essential vitamins, choline, and omega 3 fats, without having many calories or saturated fats.
  • Salmon and other fatty fish. This is a great source of omega 3 fats and protein.
  • Sweet potatoes. The carotenoids present in sweet potatoes are converted into vitamin A. They also contain folate, fiber and vitamin C.
  • Whole grains. Whole grains are higher in fiber and have more nutrients such as selenium and vitamin E.
  • Green leafy vegetables. These vegetables are rich in folate, calcium, vitamin A, C and K.
  • Greek yogurt. It has more protein than regular yogurt and it is a good source of calcium.
  • This is a great source of vegetal omega 3 fats.
  • Lean meat. This provides high quality protein, and red meats also have choline.

Prenatal supplements

It is not always easy to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet while pregnant. In most cases morning sickness does not allow you to eat enough or makes you avoid certain food items. So to be sure that you get the nutrients necessary for your baby to develop healthy you should take prenatal supplements.

You have to be sure that the supplements contain folic acid, vitamin B, choline, iron, calcium and vitamin D. If you have any doubts consult with your physician so he can recommend you the best supplement. A dietician can also give you a meal plan so you can obtain most nutrients from food.