Pregnancy is a very important time when you will be especially choosy about what to eat…
Very often before pregnancy we skip the vitamins, overdo ourselves with starch, or gorge on foods that are not so wholesome to our bodies. Good nutrition however is extremely important at this time not only for the growth and development of your baby, but for the maintenance of your well-being.
As your baby grows inside of you and gets ready to explore the world, your body will require extra resources to support good growth and development and you will call upon the nutrients of foods that will provide this kind of energy. This is a good chance to reverse the old habits and get on a path to healthier eating and living.
Pregnancy diet – Eating healthily
Eating healthy may become a challenge especially in the first trimester when nausea and vomiting will not allow you to enjoy foods as you would like. But you will need to make the extra effort to eat nutritiously for you and the baby. For one, you will improve the chances of your baby being born without certain birth defects including neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Consider also that you will promote his chances of good brain development and him being born at a healthy weight. It has also been found that children born to obese mothers are more likely to develop asthma. Good nutrition during pregnancy also means you are pretty likely to have a child who is not a picky eater.
Here’s what is in it for you as a pregnant mom. With good diet you are less likely to develop certain complications associated with pregnancy such as anemia, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Maternal obesity or having too much weight during pregnancy for example can increase your risk of gestational diabetes and the risk of diabetes in your child after birth.
Good nutrition can also help to relieve many of the discomforts of pregnancy including nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), fatigue, mood swings, and constipation. Importantly also, you are less likely to go into pre-term labor. Furthermore, your body also takes a shorter time to recover after pregnancy as you do not have so much weight to shed.
Key Foods to Eat While Pregnant…
Of course, it is not easy for the pregnant woman to eat healthily every day. However, you are encouraged to make the effort to eat a balanced meal each time you eat. Seek to include foods from each food group as much as possible – protein, starch, vitamin, fats and minerals. Your developing baby will strive on some special foods also that you are to be careful to include in your diet.
Folic Acid – This is a B vitamin that is important in preventing neural tube defects of the brain and spinal cord in babies. Spina bifidia is one such common defect occurring in 1,500 to 2000 of the 4 million births that occur in the US each year. Research has shown insufficient folic acid in the diet as one of the major causes of spina bifida. The nutrient appears in the natural form as folate and can be found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and dried beans and peas. Half a cup of boiled spinach for example can give you 115 micrograms of folate. Where you may not be able to get sufficient amounts from natural foods, the nutrient is available as folic acid in supplements. Fortified cereals are also good sources of folic acid. You can get up to 700 mcg of folic acid from 3/4 cup of cereal.
Calcium – This food nutrient is necessary to strengthen bones and teeth. Therefore your unborn child will need a good start. You will also need to maintain your bones. Furthermore, calcium helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems to function normally. You will need between 1000 milligrams per day. The most important source of calcium is dairy products including cheese, milk, and yogurt. You can also get this important food from spinach, cereal, salmon and calcium fortified orange juice.
Protein – This nutrient is an important component of your pregnancy diet. This is considered a builder nutrient good for the development of the heart, brain and other organs of the baby. Include protein in your diet at least three times per day. Foods such as meats, poultry, fish and eggs are good sources of protein. Beans, nuts, peas and tofu are also high in protein and can be highly considered especially if you are a vegetarian.
Iron – Generally, women need iron in their bodies even before pregnancy. It becomes even more important while pregnant because at this stage the body makes more blood. More blood means the need for more of the oxygen-rich hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the organs. Iron helps the body to produce more hemoglobin. Many women start pregnancy with insufficient amounts of iron in their bodies. Insufficient iron at pregnancy can lead to anemia, causing you to feel faint, fatigued and prone to infection. Iron insufficiency can also lead to preterm delivery, low birth weight and infant mortality. The pregnant mother needs at least 27 milligrams of iron per day which she can find in lean red meat, poultry, and fish. These can be enhanced by beans, fortified cereals, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamins – Vitamin nutrients are important for the building of your immune system and keeping you from diseases. Oranges for example are a rich source of vitamin but you can also look to other fruits and vegetables such as kiwi, mango, strawberries, melon, bell peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, and many more.
Other Healthy Foods
While you concentrate on certain key foods that support pregnancy, seek to eat a balanced diet from all the major food groups. Fats, for example should not be left out of your meal planning. The right kind will be good for proper brain growth and eye development especially in the third trimester. Eat moderate amounts of almond, peanut, avocados, walnut, flaxseed and vegetable oil. Fish such as trout, herring and salmon provide you with necessary omega-3 fatty acids that are essential to build the baby’s heart, brain and eyes and support his immune functions.
Limit or Avoid Certain Foods
Believe it or not, you would do well to avoid certain foods while pregnant as they can affect the health of your child in years to come. Large types of fish for example tend to have a higher concentration of mercury in them. Therefore steer away from swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel. Salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sardines, tilapia, and catfish are much healthier in their offerings and you can eat up to 12 ounces of these as recommended by the FDA.
Do not eat raw or undercooked fish, meat, eggs or poultry. You are quite susceptible to germs and bacteria that can be transmitted to the fetus. Limit or avoid certain beverages that could harm your baby. Caffeine is said to be able to cause miscarriages and should be reduced. Juices and milk that are not pasteurized carry germs and bacteria such as E. coli. It is important to note also that alcohol can have negative effects on the development of the fetus as it stunts intellectual growth and physical development.