5 Nutrition Tips for Expecting Moms
We all know that food is fuel. What we eat has a direct effect on our bodies, minds, and hearts, and there’s no more important time to eat healthy, than when you’re building life. To fuel yourself and your growing baby, you’ll need to make healthy clean food choices consistently.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you feel good and provide everything you and your baby need. Basic prenatal nutrition is vital to making sure baby makes it to full term and has a great shot at a healthy life. Fetal malnutrition can be serious and includes both overnutrition and undernutrition. Remember, the food you eat is your baby’s main source of nourishment, so it’s critical to get all of the nutrients you need and skip those unhealthy things that are bad for you both (no matter how good they taste).
The good thing? Our nutrition guidelines aren’t hard to follow and provide some delicious clean and healthy options.
Here’s our Top 5 Nutrition Tips for Moms to Be.
1. Eat more!
During the first trimester, you should eat your standard amount of healthy calories (before becoming pregnant). As you move into the second and third trimester, it’s important to raise your calories slightly. Have you heard the phrase “eating for two?” While you are eating for both you and your baby, you do not need to double your calories. In fact, overeating can be really harmful to the baby’s development. During your second trimester, the average woman will need to increase her calories by approximately 340 calories and 430-500 calories in the third trimester. These are just estimates; your height and physical activity may change these numbers slightly. Make sure those extra calories are coming from healthy sources! Just because you have a little more calories to use doesn’t mean filling them with sweets or sodas.
2. Eat moderate protein.
Make sure you get your protein! But don’t overdo it. Pregnant women need about 71 grams of protein per day, roughly 25 grams more than a typical pre-pregnancy diet. A serving of yogurt in the morning and a standard 3-4 ounce serving of chicken is more than enough daily. A 6-ounce block of tofu or one cup of lentils and one cup of quinoa combined is ideal for our veggie friends. Don’t go overboard. Excessive protein intake can actually decrease a baby’s growth and cause some health complications. Doctors recommend meeting your daily protein needs with real food options and skipping the protein powder during pregnancy.
3. Don’t forget those minerals!
While you can meet most of your nutritional needs through a healthy whole-food diet, almost all doctors recommend a simple prenatal vitamin. Nutrient needs for iron, folate, zinc, vitamin D, and other minerals are increased during pregnancy, and a prenatal vitamin will ensure you’re getting a balanced amount every day.
We all know calcium helps build strong bones, so of course, it makes sense to eat more when you’re literally building bones! Pregnant women need 1,000 mg of calcium, ideally in two doses of 500 mg, per day. Yes, there is calcium in prenatals, but this is the bare minimum! Most women need much more and find a few servings of dairy does the trick.
Good sources of calcium include:
- calcium-set tofu
- dark green, leafy vegetables
Folate, also known as folic acid, plays an important part in reducing the risk of neural tube defects. These are major birth defects that affect the baby’s brain and spinal cord, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
When you’re pregnant, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends 600 to 800 mcg of folate. Sounds like a lot, but don’t worry, a single-double serving of the following will definitely get you there.
- dried beans and lentils
- nuts and peanut butter
- dark green, leafy vegetables
- liver (not everyone’s favorite, but a small amount of liver pate is very high in folate)
Iron is important as it works alongside sodium, potassium, and water to increase blood flow. This helps make sure that enough oxygen is supplied to both you and your baby.
You should be getting 27 mg of iron per day, preferably alongside some vitamin C to increase absorption. Good sources of this nutrient include:
- dark green, leafy vegetables (noticing a trend with this one?)
- citrus fruits
- enriched bread or cereal
- lean beef and poultry
4. Don’t cut carbs.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should go out and binge on pizza and pasta, but it’s not a good time for a ketogenic or low-carb diet. Pregnant women need a minimum of 175 grams of carbs per day, even those who have diabetes! Undereating carbohydrates during pregnancy could be very harmful to your baby. During this time, choose leafy greens, fresh fruits, starchy veggies like carrots and potatoes, and all-natural whole grains or sprouted grains.
5. Eat Omega-3s and DHA
Yes, another list with omega-3’s! Those delicious fatty acids are on nearly every list because they’re so important to both your health and the health of your growing baby. The current recommendation for daily intake of DHA (one of the fatty acids) is 200 mg per day, while some doctors recommend all the way up to 1,000 mg per day. Either way, make sure that mercury-free or low-mercury fish are a part of your weekly diet. Good low mercury fish options are salmon and tuna, or you can get your DHA by taking a daily fish oil supplement. For our plant-based friends, there are algae oil supplements that provide an equally beneficial form of DHA.
That’s it! Eating for a healthy pregnancy is really not that hard. Just have a balanced plate of fruits, veggies, sets, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins, and fatty fish, and remove as much of the processed items, added sugar, and flour products.