Unsurprisingly, a lot goes into making a baby. The good news is there’s something you can do to help yourself have a healthy pregnancy and baby: Eat a healthy pregnancy diet. By following a few guidelines dedicated to baby’s wellbeing and yours, you’ll experience some impressive benefits:
- For baby: Helps improve the odds baby is born at a healthy weight, boosts brain development, decreases risk for certain birth defects (including neural tube defects like spina bifida) and, as a bonus, could result in better eating habits after birth as your baby grows to be a potentially picky eater.
- For you: Decreases the odds you’ll experience some pregnancy complications (anemia, gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are less prevalent among women who eat well), makes your pregnancy more comfortable (a sensible diet can minimize morning sickness,fatigue, constipation and a host of other pregnancy symptoms), balance your emotions (good nutrition can help moderate mood swings), improve your odds of a timely labor and delivery (you’re less likely to go into preterm labor) and a speedier postpartum recovery (a well-nourished body bounces back faster and has less pounds to shed after delivery).
Luckily scoring these benefits is relatively simple. The foundation of a healthy pregnancy diet is the same as the average healthy diet: a balanced mix of lean protein and calcium, whole grains, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (with usually a little more calories and nutrients to nourish baby)
Of course, it’s the rare woman who eats well every day, week in and week out, for all 40 weeks of her pregnancy. (Who could? What world does that woman live in?) So don’t stress about it, and don’t feel guilty — the following is a framework for healthy eating, not a strict curriculum to follow (and you’re not being graded). Follow these principles as closely as you can, as often as you can, to have the healthiest, most nutritious pregnancy possible.
PREGNANCY DIET GUIDELINES:
Your caloric intake during pregnancy is one of the most important ways you can ensure your baby is getting all the nutrients she needs. Here’s how to know if you’re getting the right amount.
Does eating for two really mean you get to eat twice as much of everything? Unfortunately for food lovers, the baby-making math doesn’t quite work that way. Keep in mind that one of the two you’re eating for is a tiny growing fetus (just pea-sized or smaller, in fact, during the first trimester).
If you were at a normal weight before becoming pregnant, here’s what you will need:
- First trimester: You actually won’t likely need any additional calories during your first trimester. Instead, you should focus on choosing nutritious foods that keep your energy up while supporting your baby’s development.
- Second trimester: Up your daily calorie intake by 300 to 350 calories per day — that’s the equivalent of, say, two glasses of skim milk and a bowl of oatmeal (not the all-you-can-eat sundae bar you were envisioning).
- Third trimester: You’ll need about an extra 500 calories per day.
- If you’re carrying multiples: Add an additional 300 calories per day for each baby.
Of course there are other exceptions to this formula (for example, if you’re a teenager or were significantly underweight to begin with, you’ll probably need more calories). And if you were overweight or obese before getting pregnant, you might need to aim for a somewhat lower caloric intake during pregnancy (of course while you still meet all nutrient requirements and focus on high-quality foods full of baby-building nutrients). So be sure to check with your practitioner to outline your daily caloric needs.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOU’RE GETTING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CALORIES?
Now that you know how many calories you need, is it the time to break out the old calculator and start counting? Absolutely not. The best way to watch what you eat isn’t to keep tabs on every bite (who has the time or the patience for that, anyway?). Instead, watch the scale. If you conceived at a normal weight, during pregnancy you should gain about three to four pounds during the first trimester, then about one pound per week in the second and third trimesters. Of course these recommendations also vary based on your pre-pregnancy BMI and other factors, so be sure to ask your practitioner for your personalized recommendations.
It’s easy, however, to miss the mark (in fact a 2015 study found that up to two-thirds of women do) — but fortunately there are steps you can take to get your weight gain back on track:
- If you’re not gaining enough weight, especially once you hit your second trimester (when morning sickness and food aversions subside), you’re likely not getting enough of your Daily Dozen (i.e., the 12 types of foods that are prime for a healthy pregnancy:protein, calcium, vitamin C foods, green leafy and yellow vegetables and fruits, other fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, iron-rich foods, the right amount of fats and salty foods,water and other fluids, and your prenatal vitamin supplements). If you fall into this category, try adding additional servings of the Daily Dozen each day, such as lean protein, calcium-rich foods and whole grains. If you’re still having trouble gaining enough weight, speak with your practitioner, since taking in enough calories over time can slow the growth of your baby.
- If you’re gaining weight too quickly, on the other hand, you’re likely getting more calories than you need — and it can have negative health consequences for you and your baby including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and preterm birth. So make some healthy adjustments to your diet (i.e. eliminate processed, calorie-dense but nutrient-scarce foods) while ensuring you’re not cutting out the valuable nutrients that your baby needs.
Three servings daily
Protein (and the amino acids within) is an important building block of human cells. And given the rapid cell development of your baby-to-be, it is an essential part of the Pregnancy Diet. Aim for three servings of protein daily (which adds up to about 75 grams), and try to spread it out during the day. Have a cheese omelet for breakfast, for instance, a salmon salad for lunch, and a chicken breast with dinner. And remember that you can get additional protein from whole-grain breads and cereals, and calcium-rich foods like milk and yogurt. What if you’re a vegan mama? If you don’t eat animal proteins (or have an aversion to them right now), just ramp up your intake of vegetable source proteins, such as grains and legumes – and, of course, enjoy your soy.
See What’s in a Serving? for a complete list of healthy protein choices, plus recommended portion sizes. (See Eating Fish While Pregnant for more information on what fish is safe to eat during pregnancy.)
The Facts on Fish and Pregnancy
If you’re unsure of the rules on fish and pregnancy, you’re not alone: There’s been plenty of conflicting views over the years. Fish is heart healthy! But wait, it’s also full of mercury. Fish is loaded with baby-friendly DHA! But not so fast — it’s also loaded with PCBs. So what’s the real dish on fish? The bottom line is that eating enough of the right types is not only healthy but recommended for both you and your baby. Here’s the lowdown on what’s safe and what’s not when it comes to seafood.
THE BENEFITS OF FISH
The good news (at least for moms who enjoy seafood) is that fish really does offer big benefits for both pregnant women and their developing babies. Fish:
- Supports fetal growth. Fish is a first-rate source of lean protein, an essential amino acid that helps create all of baby’s cells — from skin and muscle to hair and bones.
- Is good for baby’s brain. What’s more, fish (especially the fattier varieties, like salmon) is a source of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which has been shown to boost baby brain power. It’s more important than ever in the third trimester, when your baby’s brain growth is fast and furious.
- Boosts your memory. Speaking of boosted brain power, getting enough omega-3s may also improve your memory — especially helpful when you’re battling a case of pregnancy brain.
- Improves your mood: An adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids and especially DHA has been shown to decrease your risk ofdepression during pregnancy as well as postpartum depression.
- Supports your heart: A diet rich in fish may lower your risk of cardiac disease by reducing blood clotting and levels of triglycerides (blood fat) as well as lowering blood pressure if you have preexisting hypertension.
- May reduce risk of preterm birth. Scientists have observed that rates of preterm birth are lower in areas with a high fish intake — and some studies have indeed linked adequate omega 3 intake (whether through fish or supplements) to a lower risk of preterm birth.
HOW MUCH FISH YOU SHOULD EAT
So how much seafood should you eat during pregnancy? In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration released a joint statement encouraging moms to eat more fish. The groups said that expecting and breastfeeding women should eat 8 to 12 ounces (that’s two to three servings) of low-mercury fish every week, noting that three in four women eat an average of just 4 ounces of fish per week.
FISH TO AVOID DURING PREGNANCY
Though the benefits of fish are many, you should still avoid a few types during pregnancy. Some — particularly large, ocean-faring, predator-types — contain high levels of mercury, a distinctly baby-unfriendly toxin. Others — especially those that live in polluted lakes and rivers — can be laden with PCBs, a chemical you definitely don’t want to be feeding a fetus or an infant.
To play it safe, avoid or limit the following fish while you’re pregnant and nursing:
Shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, along with fish from contaminated waters (so if you’re not sure that the fish your partner picked up on that fishing trip is from a safe water zone, you’re better off avoiding it)
Limit to 6 ounces per week
Canned (or packaged) white albacore tuna and freshwater fish caught by family and friends
Limit to 12 ounces per week
Shellfish, canned (or packaged) light tuna, smaller ocean fish, farm-raised fish and store-bought freshwater fish
SAFE FISH DURING PREGNANCY
Most fish are considered safe to eat when you’re expecting, including wild salmon, shrimp, catfish, tilapia, sole, flounder, haddock, halibut, ocean perch, pollock, cod and trout
Heard conflicting advice on salmon, too? Salmon’s definitely one of nature’s best providers of DHA. But to ensure you’re not also feasting on the high levels of PCBs often found in farmed salmon, opt for wild (which also contains more of those healthy omega-3 fats) or organic farmed salmon.
By now you’ve probably heard that you should avoid sushi during pregnancy — and the same goes for any other raw (oysters, ceviche, smoked salmon) or undercooked fish, since they can contain bacteria and parasites (like Listeria) that are dangerous for your developing baby.
Here are a few tips to properly prepare fish and help reduce your exposure to any potential contaminants:
- Buy only fresh, properly refrigerated seafood. Store it in the fridge in a sealed container if you’re not cooking it immediately.
- Use separate cutting boards for meats (including fish) and fruits/veggies.
- Don’t reuse marinades.
- Cook seafood (all types, including shucked clams, oysters, shrimp, lobster and scallops) until it reaches an internal temperature of 145° F; if a thermometer isn’t available, you’ll know it’s done when the flesh is opaque (milky white); fish fillets should flake easily with a fork.
- Clams, mussels and oysters are cooked when their shells open; throw away any that don’t.
8 Protein-Rich Foods for Pregnancy (Plus Great Ways to Eat Them!)
Why is protein so important? It’s a vital building block your body uses to create skin, muscle, hair, and bones. That’s why it’s crucial when you’re pregnant, both for your baby (to ensure normal growth and prevent low birth weight) and for you (to maintain your body’s tissue health). In fact, when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, your daily requirement shoots up from an average of 46 to 71 g (and even more if you’re carrying multiples). That’s an extra 25 g of protein every day. But don’t get too hung up on counting those grams — most American women (pregnant or not) get more than enough protein in their diets. That said, some protein sources are better than others for your body and your baby. Click through to learn about the healthiest meat, dairy, and plant protein sources, along with tasty ways to serve them.
Here’s good news from the barnyard: A 3 ½-ounce serving of roasted turkey provides 28 g of protein in dark-meat cuts and 30 g in white breast meat. Chicken comes in a close second, at 24 to 28 g in a 3 ½-ounce serving of dark- or light-meat chicken (that’s about 1 cup diced). A 3-ounce turkey burger averages about 25 g of protein.
In the kitchen:
Making a meatloaf or pasta sauce? Switch up things by substituting ground turkey in your favorite recipes. Top a green salad with roasted chicken for a one-plate supper or toss diced warm or cold turkey with fresh baby spinach or kale and a simple vinaigrette dressing. Poultry and fruit make an excellent couple, so chop up dried fruit or your favorite fresh fruit — diced apples, peaches, pineapple, orange or grapefruit slices, or halved grapes — and serve chilled or at room temperature with leftover turkey breast or chicken legs. Fruity salsa or chutney makes a tasty topping for ground turkey or chicken patties, too
There are dozens of reasons to make eggs part of your protein plan. For one thing, a large egg provides a little over 6 g of protein: 2.7 g in the yolk, and 3.6 g in the white.
In the kitchen:
No matter how you cook ’em, eggs make a satisfying breakfast…or lunch…or dinner. When you’re pregnant and pooped, an omelet is a pretty speedy supper fix — just get creative with your fillings and herbs and you’ll never get bored. Scrambled eggs are great tucked into a taco or quesadilla. Add hard-boiled eggs to a green or pasta salad, or plop sunny-side up or over-easy eggs on top of baked potatoes, turkey burgers, grilled tomatoes, or ramen noodle soup. Or channel your inner Julia Child and whip up a quiche, frittata, or batch of egg-drop soup. Of course,French toast counts, too!
Leaner meat isn’t just healthier for your heart and your waistline — in general, the leaner the cut, the more protein it contains too. A 3 ½-ounce serving of cooked lean beef, pork, or lamb provides 31 to 33 g of protein, while a similar portion of lean ham supplies 21 g.
In the kitchen:
We love the healthy trend of serving meat as a “condiment,” or as one of many ingredients in mixed dishes, rather than as the star of your dinner plate. Because lean meat is so rich in high-quality protein, a little goes a long way toward boosting your daily intake — so add a small portion of beef, pork, or lamb to stews, casseroles, hearty veggie soups, salads, rice, and noodle dishes that also feature plenty of heart-healthy grains, legumes, and vegetables.
Milk is marvelous for pregnant women: One cup supplies 8 g of protein, while soy milk ranges from 3 to 11 g per cup depending on the brand. (Other nondairy milk beverages are usually very low in protein.) One cup of nonfat dry milk powder provides 43 g of protein, and 1 cup of whole dry milk powder has 34 g. One cup of yogurt provides between 8 and 13 g of protein, depending on how much fat it contains (nonfat contains the most and full fat the least). Two ounces of cheese (that’s about a half cup diced or grated) supplies between 17 and 20 g of protein — just be sure that any uncooked cheese you eat while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding is pasteurized to avoid Listeria bacteria, which, though rare, can be dangerous to both you and your unborn baby.
In the kitchen:
An icy glass of moo-juice is a great late-afternoon pick-me-up for moms-to-be, with or without a cookie. And now’s the time to up your use of milk to make creamy soups, chowders, and pasta sauces (just watch your overall calorie intake and balance those dishes with plenty of low-cal salads and veggies). Add a spoonful or two of dry milk powder to smoothies, pudding, hot chocolate, pancake and waffle batters, and the batter for baked goods. Grate Parmesan cheese over bean soups and chilies, vegetables, scrambled eggs, and rice or grain dishes. Add yogurt to lentil soup or any dish flavored with curry, or stir it into salsa, guacamole, and other dips. (You can also mix equal parts yogurt and mayonnaise to lighten up dressing for homemade potato, chicken, or tuna salad.)
Dried white, black, kidney, pinto, or navy beans and lentils, split peas, or other legumes provide about 19 g per cooked cup. Foods made from soybeans are also excellent sources of protein: 1 cup (5 ½ ounces) of tempeh (made from fermented soybeans) supplies 31 g; 1 cup (8 ounces) of tofu supplies 40 g.
In the kitchen:
There are plenty of ways to add protein-rich legumes to your diet: Scatter beans over green salads, add them to vegetable soups and meat stews, toss a handful into almost any pasta or rice dish. Not a meat-eater? Bean and lentils
NUTS AND SEEDS
Peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, and almonds are all good sources of plant protein, with numbers ranging from 26 to 35 g per cup. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and even sesame seeds are packed with protein, contributing 27 to 39 g per cup. And don’t forget nut butters: A level tablespoon of peanut butter supplies 5 g of protein. You can have too much of a good thing, though: Nuts and seeds are high in calories, so enjoy them in moderation — one-quarter cup is the recommended serving size.
In the kitchen:
Combine your favorite nuts and dried fruits to make a custom trail mix — a handful can quickly calm a case of the queasies and add to your protein bottom line. Use chopped or slivered nuts in place of croutons in soups and salads, on top of ice cream and sliced fruit, or mixed into hot and cold cereals. Try almond, soy, or sesame butter on your morning muffin or when you bake to enjoy an extra-rich flavor and luscious texture.
Whole grains, as well as some other grain products, are naturally high in protein. For example, a cup of wheat germ provides 27 g of protein, while one cup of uncooked whole oats, amaranth, wheat or spelt kernels, quinoa, or wild rice all provide between 24 g and 26 g.
In the kitchen:
Whole grains add significant protein to breakfast cereals, salads, baked goods, and side dishes. Skip the white rice and go for brown instead, and substitute whole-wheat spaghetti the next time you’re serving up a pasta supper. For a new take on tabbouleh, substitute spelt kernels, quinoa, or wild rice for the usual bulgur wheat. When baking, add wheat-germ flakes to breads, muffins, cakes, biscuits, piecrust, and even cookies — you can substitute up to a quarter cup of wheat germ for an equal amount of flour in any recipe.
Seafood is rich in protein — and safe to eat as long as you choose wisely. The Centers for Disease Control says you can safely consume up to 12 ounces of cooked, low-mercury seafood each week while pregnant or breastfeeding. Three ounces of safe options like wild salmon, herring, sardines, cod, flounder, trout, tilapia, shrimp, crabmeat, or canned light — not albacore — tuna supply 19 to 25 g of protein.
In the kitchen:
All fish — especially fattier fish like salmon, sardines, and herring — taste terrific when cooked or served with acidic ingredients like lemon or lime juice, mustard, wine, flavored vinegars, sour cream or yogurt, tomatoes, tomatillos, pickled vegetables, kimchi, or fruit salsa. Serve leftovers cold over salad greens or on crackers, or make homemade fish cakes by combining fish with leftover mashed potatoes.
Four servings daily
Boning up on calcium is critical during pregnancy. Not only is it essential for your baby’s developing bones (especially during the third trimester), it will also help yours stay strong, warding off osteoporosis later on.
How to bone up? Milk is an obvious source of calcium (and an especially efficient one if you select calcium-fortified skim milk) — and one that’s easily disguised in smoothies and soups if you don’t like it straight up. Or dabble in other dairy sources, like yogurt (straight from the container, in smoothies, or as a topping for fruit) and cheese (munch a mozzarella stick with crackers, sprinkle Parmesan on your pasta, pour low-fat cheese sauce over steamed vegetables). Is no dairy good dairy as far as you’re concerned? Drink calcium-fortified juice with your breakfast, eat a canned salmon salad (mashed up with the bones) for lunch, and snack on edamame.
Note that caffeine and high-fiber foods can slow calcium’s absorption (which means that the milk in your latte won’t count quite as much, and neither will the glass you down with your bran muffin).
- Vitamin C Foods
Three servings daily
Vitamin C is a nutrient your body can’t store, so you’ll need a fresh supply each day to help boost your baby’s growth and development. (Since it’s an immune system’s best friend, it will also help keep you healthy). Certainly, you can look to your morning OJ for a serving of C (make that two servings in an 8-ounce glass) — but you can also look beyond it to the many other tasty C-rich fruits and vegetables (such as kiwi, mango, strawberries, melon, bell peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, and more). Try to eat some of your C foods raw each day, since the C is one vitamin that doesn’t hold up as well under fire (or other forms of cooking).
- Green/Yellow Fruits & Veggies
Three to four servings daily
Vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, and fruits such as mango and cantaloupe, pack far more essential vitamins and minerals than most of their comrades-in-produce, including vitamin E, riboflavin, folic acid, magnesium, and beta-carotene — the superstar phytochemical that is vital to your baby’s skin, bones, eyes, and cell growth. Try for a mix of both green and yellow (which actually also includes red, as in red pepper; and orange, as in yams, winter squash, carrots, cantaloupe and apricots) choices daily, and remember that when it comes to color, the deeper the better — and it’s what’s inside that counts. Deep-green romaine is a healthier choice than iceberg, and a cucumber isn’t a green vegetable at all (once you slice into it). Count that glass of vegetable juice or that fruit smoothie toward your daily allowance, and consider eating one of your three servings raw or lightly cooked to benefit from constipation-fighting fiber. Also remember, if you’re a vegetable shunner, you can fill your entire requirement the sweet way (with the right fruits).
Note: Many of the choices below will also fulfill your vitamin C requirement.
- 2 fresh apricots
- 6 dried apricot halves
- 1/2 cup juice-packed canned apricots
- 1/8 cantaloupe, or 1/2 cup cubed
- 1/2 medium mango
- 1/2 papaya
- 1 nectarine
- 1 large yellow peach
- 3/4 cup pink grapefruit juice
- 1 pink or ruby red grapefruit
- 1 clementine
- 2 small tangerines
- 1/4 medium papaya
- 1 small persimmon
- 1/4 cup cooked bok choy
- 1 cup shredded, raw green cabbage
- 1/2 cup broccoli slaw
- 1 cup coleslaw mix
- 1/2 cup raw or cooked broccoli pieces
- 1 packed cup raw spinach, or 1/2 cup cooked spinach
- 1/4 cup cooked greens (such as Swiss chard, kale, or collards)
- 1 packed cup green leafy lettuce (such as romaine, arugula, red or green leaf, or field greens)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 carrot, or 1/4 cup grated
- 1/4 cup carrot juice
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup cooked winter squash
- 1/2 small sweet potato or yam
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 6 ounces vegetable juice
- 1/2 cup cooked rutabaga
- 2/3 cup sliced star fruit
- 1/4 cup cooked pumpkin
- 1 cup Brussels sprouts
- 1 cup asparagus
- 1 cup endive
- 1 cup snap green beans
Other Fruits & Vegetables
One to two servings daily
Though they may not pack as much nutritional punch as their green and yellow counterparts or as C superstars, that apple a day and “other” fruits and vegetables, including pears, bananas, and corn, offer a respectable sprinkling of vitamins (such as C and A), minerals (such as potassium and magnesium), fiber, and phytochemicals.
- Whole Grains & Legumes
At least six servings daily
Pregnancy is definitely not the time to follow the low-carb craze — or to go crazy on refined carbs (like white bread and rice, French fries, and sugary treats). But it is the time to explore the wonderful world of whole grains — and to enjoy the breads, cereals, and pastas they’re made from without a morsel of guilt. Don’t stop at whole wheat — you’ll also find whole-grain goodness (plus vitamins and minerals essential to baby’s development) in whole corn, rice, oats, rye, barley, quinoa, and more, as well as in dried peas and beans (aka legumes). Complex carbs are also mom-friendly, since they combat nausea (thanks to their starchiness) and fight constipation (thanks to their fiber).
- Iron-Rich Foods
Your pregnant body needs iron-rich foods now more than ever
Your body needs iron now more than ever before, thanks to your baby’s rapidly developing blood supply (and your own expanding one), so don’t forget to include some in your daily diet. Don’t worry — you don’t have to eat your spinach to pump some iron…unless you want to. You’ll also find iron in soy products, beef, dried fruit, and blackstrap molasses. Your practitioner will probably also advise you to add a daily supplement of 30 to 50 milligrams of iron (above what’s contained in your prenatal supplement) once you hit the 20th week, in order to avoid iron deficiency, which can lead to anemia. Take it between meals, with a vitamin C source such as orange or tomato juice, to increase the absorption of this vital mineral by your body.
Not all fats are bad — that’s old news. But did you know that, in addition to the health benefits to you, eating certain fatty foods while pregnant can actually be key to your baby’s development?
We’re programmed to flinch upon hearing the word “fat.” But the truth is, fat is essential. It’s vital to your growing baby, and the right kinds help to fuel proper brain growth and eye development, particularly during the third trimester. Don’t assume, however, that more of a good thing is, well, always good when it comes to fat (like it is with, say, leafy green vegetables). While between 25 and 35 percent of your calories during pregnancy should come from fat, not all fats are created equal. Some varieties can be beneficial — and provide you with much-needed energy while you’re expecting — while other types are best avoided. Here’s a primer on the four main types of fats, including where you can find them and which ones to focus on.
EAT IN MODERATION: UNSATURATED FATS
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the majority of fat you consume come from unsaturated fats, the healthiest kind. These include both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats, both of which are especially important during pregnancy. Aim for unsaturated fats to make up about 25 percent of your daily calories. In a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s approximately 500 calories from fat. You can find fat calories on the food label, next to calories. Since some of the healthy foods don’t have labels, it’s easiest to figure out your intake by servings: Aim for four servings of fat every day — that’s roughly 14 grams of fat and 126 calories per serving.
The benefits: Unsaturated fats provide vital nutrients to help build and develop cells in both your body and your baby’s. Polyunsaturated fats are rich in omega-3s — EPA (oreicosapentaenoic acid, found in plant sources) and DHA (ordocosahexaenoic acid, found in fish) — to help develop and sustain the health of your baby’s heart, immune system, brain, eyes and more. Monounsatured fats are also a good source of folate, otherwise known as folic acid, which helps protect your baby against birth defects.
One serving of monounsaturated fats:
- Mixed nuts (1 oz, or about a handful)
- Almonds (1/4 cup)
- Avocado (1/2 whole)
- Vegetable, olive or sunflower oil (1 tbsp)
One serving of polyunsaturated fats:
- Salmon (4oz is also great source of both omega 3s and bone-building vitamin D)
- Trout (4 oz is a half-serving of fat)
- Herring (4 oz)
- Flaxseed (1/2 cup whole seed is a good plant-based source of EPA)
- Walnuts (1 oz is another plant-based source of EPA)
- Soybean or corn oil (1 tbsp)
LIMIT: SATURATED FATS
Saturated fats are in solid form at room temperature and come mainly from meat, milk and dairy products. The AHA recommends that saturated fat make up no more than 6 percent of your daily calories (that’s roughly 13g of saturated fat in a 2,000 calorie diet).
The benefits: Foods that contain saturated fats are often also high in other important vitamins or minerals. Beef, for example, contains saturated fat as well as protein, an essential building block of human cells, and high levels of iron, an important mineral to support both mom and baby’s blood supply. (Many women become anemic when they’re expecting because of the elevated blood volume required to support a pregnancy, so eating meat helps combat that problem.) Cheese is another food with additional benefits: While most cheeses are high in saturated fat, they also contain calcium, which you need more than ever during pregnancy for your baby to develop strong bones.
Where to find healthy saturated fats:
- Beef tenderloin (3oz has one serving of protein and 3 grams of saturated fat)
- Prime rib (3 oz has one serving of protein and 12 grams of saturated fat)
- Ground beef, 95 percent lean (3 oz has one serving of protein and 2.5 grams of saturated fat)
- Cheddar cheese (1 oz has one serving of calcium and 6 grams of saturated fat)
- Butter (1 oz has 7 grams of saturated fat)
AVOID: TRANS FATS
Common in popular supermarket items like packaged foods and frozen dinners, trans fats are manufactured through a process where hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. (You’ve heard the terms “hydrogenated oil” and “partially hydrogenated oil,” right?) Some big companies tend to like it — as do their customers — because it ups the amount of time the products last on the shelf before going bad. But the AHA recommends limiting your trans-fat intake to less than 1 percent of your total calories.
Benefits: None! The kinds of foods that contain trans fats are usually composed of mostly empty calories — e.g., refined sugar — and other stuff your body can’t really use to support itself (or your growing baby). In fact, one study showed that the amount of trans fat the mother ate, especially in the second trimester, increased the fetal growth of the baby (and not in a good way). Large babies are at risk for a host of complications, including preterm labor.
Where to find trans fats:
- Fried foods
- Frozen pizza
Be sure to read labels: The FDA requires all food manufactures to list the amount of saturated fat and trans-fats in the nutrition facts on packaged products. Remember, too, that not all fat is bad. It’s a major source of energy that also helps with the absorption of key vitamins such as A, D, E and K.
Craving a cookie? Don’t deprive yourself every time. But instead of buying a pre-packaged one — which you now know is loaded with the bad kind of fat — make it from scratch. Most foods are healthier when they’re homemade, because you can choose recipes that are lower in trans fats. And, hey, throw in a few walnuts while you’re at it!
Sodium gets a bad rap, but is it just misunderstood? Why salt intake shouldn’t be off-limits during pregnancy – or ever. PLUS: sneaky hiding places you should know so you don’t accidentally overdo it.
Salt. It’s got a deliciously negative reputation: We’re told that we’re eating too much of it — and it seems like there’s a new headline every day about the various health problems it causes. But the truth is, salt intake is vital for the body to function properly, especially during pregnancy. Problems can arise, though, when we go overboard…and with today’s processed foods, it’s easier to do than ever. But by paying careful attention to what you eat, you can keep your sodium consumption on track.
WHY YOU NEED SODIUM
Sodium is a chemical element that works to regulate the fluid levels, temperature and pH levels of your body. Sodium is added to many foods and is one of the two elements (the other being chlorine) that combine to make up table salt (a.k.a. sodium chloride). Without enough sodium, your muscles, nerves and organs wouldn’t function like they should. We need it! But we only need so much.
During pregnancy, as you know, your body’s volume of blood and other fluids increases — and sodium helps keep everything in balance. On top of that, iodine, which is added to some table salts (you may have seen the word “iodized” on the salt package label), is critical for your baby’s brain and nervous system development. While iodine deficiency is really rare in the United States, too little of this important mineral during pregnancy can cause stillbirth,miscarriage or abnormal brain development resulting in intellectual disabilities.
HOW MUCH SALT IS OK
Don’t go wrapping pretzel rods in bacon just yet. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans established by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the recommendation is up to about a teaspoon of salt a day — that’s six grams of salt, or 2,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium. Even during pregnancy, the same numbers apply. (The only exception is for people with hypertension, African Americans those age 51 and older, who are recommended to aim for 1,500 mg a day.) But sodium is in all sorts of prepared foods, which means the average person still consumes way too much. Most women in the U.S. take in more than seven grams of salt (or 2,800 mg of sodium) daily (and men take in an average of nearly 10grams of salt…yikes).
WHY TOO MUCH IS A PROBLEM
Even before you were pregnant, you likely felt side effects of overdoing it on sodium. Think about one of the times you ate a super-salty meal and felt like a stuffed sausage for the next two days. That feeling is due to all the extra water your body is holding to try to flush out the excess sodium. Swelling of the face, hands, legs, ankles and feet — called edema — is already a very commonpregnancy symptom. Overdoing the salt in your diet will kick edema into overdrive. Want to swell up even more? No gracias.
Beyond bloating and discomfort, too much sodium can cause serious health issues. Here’s how: Regular excessive sodium consumption causes your body to hold on to too much water, which in turn increases the pressure of blood pumping through your veins and arteries. This forces the body to work harder than it should, leading to high blood pressure — which can lead to stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, stomach cancer, osteoporosis and more.
The tricky part is that while backing away slowly from the saltshaker can help, sodium is already hiding in foods where you might not expect it.
SNEAKY PLACES WHERE SALT IS HIDING
Processed foods like potato chips, canned soups and frozen dinners are ridiculously salty, but these high-sodium sources may surprise you:
- Bread: A slice of white bread has almost 150 mg of sodium. That may not seem like much at first. But when’s the last time you stopped at one slice of bread? A bagel for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, a roll at dinner — all that dough (and sodium) adds up.
- Condiments: What you put on your food has a huge effect on your sodium intake. A tablespoon of ketchup has 154 mg of sodium, a tablespoon of barbecue sauce has 175 mg, a tablespoon of relish has 164 mg and a tablespoon of soy sauce has a whopping 1,005 mg of sodium. Salad dressings are another culprit: Caesar has 178 mg, Italian 146 mg and French dressing has 134 mg per tablespoon.
- Cereal: Your morning bowl of cereal may taste more sweet than salty, but some cereals contain a lot of salt. For instance, even cereal with a “healthier” reputation, corn flakes, has 204 mg of sodium in a one-cup single serving. Not terrible, right? Wrong. Have you ever measured how much cereal you pour into your bowl? Try it. Chances are, it’s more than one cup. Those individual servings of instant oatmeal and grits pack a big sodium punch, too. A packet of maple and brown sugar oatmeal has 218 mg of sodium, and a packet of butter-flavored instant grits contains 335 mg of sodium.
- Sweet drinks: You wouldn’t think that salt would be high on the list of ingredients for sugar-laden drinks, but sometimes it is. Sixteen ounces of hot cocoa mix prepared with water has 408 mg. And you’ve heard of electrolytes, right? They can help when you’re dehydrated? Well, sodium is a type of electrolyte — so some canned energy drinks have as much as 180 mg of sodium, and a bottle of a sports performance drink has nearly 240 mg of sodium.
THE BEST SOURCES OF SODIUM
Sodium is found in most foods — vegetables, milk, eggs, plain yogurt, poultry, fish, fruit, grains and unsalted nuts — which means you can get your fill from these healthier natural sources. Whenever possible, choose fresh over pre-prepared options and, when cooking, try not to be too heavy-handed in sprinkling on the salt. You’ll meet your daily requirement as long as you follow the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines.
TIPS FOR CUTTING BACK
Reducing your sodium intake is challenging but doable. These small changes can help:
- Cook at home. It’s important to try to eat more homemade meals, since food cooked at home has less salt than processed foods or food cooked in a restaurant. Since you’re likely tired, loop in your partner on food preparation to make it easier.
- Be cautious with the salt shaker. When you do cook, be conservative with the salt you use; you can make your meals just as (if not more) tasty using spices, herbs, lemon, ginger or other salt-free seasonings. Reach for the salt with “iodized” on the label (not sea salt), which can help you reach your iodine requirements. And while you’re at it, keep your saltshaker in cabinet, where it’s less accessible (that is, not on your dinner table).
- Opt for fresh over prepared snacks. Choose fruit, vegetables or low-fat yogurt for snacks instead of high-sodium treats like chips, cookies and cakes.
- Read the label. Remember, even foods that don’t taste salty can be filled with sodium. Take the time to check out the nutrition label to see just how much salt is in the product.
Drinking water is extra-important during pregnancy, and it’s more important than ever to ensure your source is safe. There’s more to H2O than meets the… mouth.
Is being pregnant driving you to drink? Well, it should — at least all the way to the water faucet. As a mom-to-be, it’s essential to be doubly sure that you’re drinking enough water. Here’s what you need to know about drinking water during pregnancy, from the benefits (preventing hemorrhoids and other pregnancy symptoms), to how much you need (more than before), to how to ensure your water is safe (more important than ever).
WATER DELIVERS ESSENTIALS TO YOUR FETUS
Ever wonder how all the good stuff in the prenatal vitamins and healthy foods you’re faithfully consuming every day are shipped to your fetus? It all starts with water, which helps your body absorb essential nutrients into the cells and transports vitamins, minerals and hormones to the blood cells. It’s those nutrient-rich blood cells that reach the placenta and ultimately your baby — all with the help of H2O.
YOUR RECOMMENDED DAILY WATER INTAKE IS HIGHER DURING PREGNANCY
To that end, you’ll need more water to keep your system running for two during pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine says pregnant women in temperate climates should aim to drink 12 or 13 glasses (they count a glass as eight ounces) each day, which is slightly more than the amount for non-pregnant women (around 11 glasses each day). Try to space out your sips to keep them coming steadily throughout the day rather than gulping a lot at once, which could leave you feeling uncomfortably full. Since most of us don’t drink enough fluids, filling a water bottle or two every morning and keeping it handy all day takes the hassle out of hydration. Be sure to sip before, during and after you work out, or if you find yourself outside on a hot day. Note, too, that if you feel thirsty, it’s a sign that your body is already on its way to being dehydrated.
How can you tell if you’re getting enough? If your trips to the bathroom are frequent and your urine is pale or colorless, you’re drinking is on track.
WATER CAN HELP PREVENT UTIS, CONSTIPATION AND HEMORRHOIDS
Now that you’re pregnant, you’re not just eating and drinking for two — you’re also excreting for two (ew, but true). That means you’ll have more trash to take out of your system than ever before. Enter water, which dissolves the waste products and helps flush them from the kidneys. Drinking enough water also keeps your urine diluted, which not only keeps things flowing but also keeps UTIs at bay (urine that hangs out too long in your bladder can become a breeding ground for infection-triggering bacteria), as well as bladder infections and kidney infections (which are are types of UTIs).
A copious consumption of water also helps immeasurably in the poop department, helping to move solid wastes more speedily down the digestive path. And, since constipation is pretty common in pregnant women — not to mention the fact that constipation pressure can cause hemorrhoids — well…bottoms up! (Couldn’t help it!)
WATER CAN HELP WITH FATIGUE, HEADACHES, SWELLING AND OVERHEATING
Is it crazy-hot in here — or are you pregnant? It’s true, the heat is on (high!) when you’re expecting. But if you drink water during pregnancy, you can keep the body’s cooling system running smoothly — even when your inner thermostat is cranked all the way up — by dispersing excess heat in the form of sweat.
An ample flow of fluids also keeps pregnancy fatigue in check — one of the first symptoms of dehydration is exhaustion — and can keep headaches at bay (another dehydration symptom). It also helps your body get rid of excess sodium among other things, minimizing swelling —particularly swollen feet or ankles (your doctor might call it “edema”).
ENSURING YOUR WATER’S SAFE
It’s never a bad idea to assess the cleanliness of your drinking water — and that’s especially true when you’re pregnant. While most of the water you drink likely comes from public water systems and is generally safe to drink, it can be contaminated with high levels of chemicals that could harm a fetus, including lead, mercury and arsenic. In addition, there is increasing evidence that BPA (an industrial chemical that mimics estrogen and is found in some plastics) can be problematic when you’re expecting. Learn more on how to ensure your water supply is safe to drink when you’re pregnant.
WATER ISN’T THE ONLY WAY TO HYDRATE
Water is the best drink around, but if you’re all watered out? There are plenty of other liquids that make the cut: Milk (an 8-ounce glass of skim yields just over seven ounces of water), sparkling or flavored waters, fruit and vegetable juices (watch out for added sugar in fruit juice and added sodium in veggie drinks) and decaffeinated teas are all great choices — just be sure you keep an eye on pasteurization, calorie info and all that. You should, however, limit your intake of soda (nothing but empty calories), as well as other beverages containing caffeine, since they have a diuretic effect (besides the other reasons to cut the caffeine during pregnancy).
Keep in mind, too, that about 20 percent of our daily water intake comes from food sources. Fruits pack the most water: One cup of watermelon or cantaloupe provides just under five ounces of water; a medium-size pear or one cup of strawberries provides about four and a half ounces; a medium size orange has four ounces. Got the sniffles? A cup of chicken soup yields roughly six ounces of water.
Prenatal Vitamin Supplement.
Getting your daily nutrients has never been easier (or more important!). Here’s the rundown on what to look for in a prenatal vitamin.
It’s never too early to start taking care of your baby — and there’s no better time to start than before your baby’s conceived. Luckily, there’s nothing easier or more effective than popping a prenatal vitamin. This daily pill is an insurance policy, offering you the security of knowing that your body is stocking up on the most essential baby-making vitamins it needs to conceive and nourish your baby-to-be through a healthy pregnancy. Here’s how prenatal vitamins benefit you, along with how to choose the best prenatal vitamin.
THE BENEFITS OF PRENATAL VITAMINS
Take a daily prenatal vitamin before you start trying to conceive and you’ll thank yourself later. Prenatal vitamins:
- Cut back on nausea. Vitamin B6 helps to reduce nausea — and research has shown that women who take a daily multivitamin before conception and/or during the first few weeks of pregnancy experience fewer episodes of nausea and vomiting during the first trimester (aka “morning sickness”).
- Boost fertility. Not only will you be ensuring a healthier baby, you’ll also be upping the chances that you’ll actually make that healthy baby faster. Some research has shown that taking a prenatal vitamin may actually help increase fertility.
- Reduce risk of birth defects. Perhaps the most important (and best publicized) reason to take a prenatal vitamin is for the folic acid (known as folate when it’s in food form) it contains. Studies show that getting enough folic acid before sperm meets egg and in the early stages of pregnancy can dramatically reduce the risk of neural tube defects (like spina bifida) in your developing baby.
CHOOSE THE BEST PRENATAL VITAMIN
There are plenty of prenatal vitamin supplements on the market — so how do you pick? Your individual needs may differ, so it’s best to work directly with your doctor when determining the best plan for your prenatal vitamins. In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you choose the best prenatal vitamin:
Get the right nutrients
Take a look at the label of any prenatal vitamin you’re considering for a few key vitamins:
- Folic acid: 600 mcg. Since baby’s neural tube forms in the first month of pregnancy — before most women know that they’re pregnant — it’s ideal to start taking your prenatal vitamin before you start trying to conceive. So in addition to eating plenty of folate-rich foods, opt for a vitamin with at least 600 mcg of folic acid (aka vitamin B9) throughout your pregnancy. For women whose family history shows a high risk of neural tube defects, guidelines recommend aiming for 10 times that amount (or four mg) from folic acid supplements — but always talk to your doctor before taking any additional supplements.
- Calcium: 150 mg. Another crucial nutrient for women, calcium is especially important when you’re growing another set of bones(your baby’s). All women ages 19 to 50 need 1,000 mg per day. In addition to getting plenty of calcium in your diet from milk, yogurt or other calcium-rich foods, make sure some is in your prenatal vitamin. If your doctor is still concerned you’re not getting enough, he may recommend you take an additional supplement.
- Iron: 27mg. This mineral is the building block for baby’s cells — and your body needs more than ever during pregnancy. If, like many women, you become anemic during pregnancy, your doctor may recommend that you take more.
- Iodine: 150 mcg. Iodine aids your baby-to-be’s thyroid and brain development — and studies have shown that many American women aren’t getting enough of this essential mineral. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pregnant women take a daily supplement of iodine and cook with iodized salt for a total intake of 220 mcg per day. If the supplement you’re considering doesn’t have any (or enough) iodine, talk to your doctor about taking a separate iodine supplement.
- Vitamin B6: 1.9mg. This B vitamin helps decrease the potential for morning sickness — in fact, prescription morning sickness drugs are a combination of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and doxylamine (an antihistamine).
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Talk to your doctor. Regular prenatal vitamins don’t contain omega-3 fatty acids — a healthy type of fat found in many types of fish. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to aid in baby’s brain development, both before and after birth. If you’re unable to get the recommended two to three servings (8 to 12 ounces) of pregnancy-safe fatty fish per week, ask your doctor if you should take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
A few other nutrients to be aware of:
- Vitamin A: No more than 10,000 IU. More can be toxic. Look for beta-carotene, the safest source of vitamin A.
- Vitamin D: 600 IU. Your body needs vitamin D, in combination with calcium, to grow your baby’s bones and keep yours strong. If your doctor suspects you may not be getting enough vitamin D (a relatively common issue among women), he or she may screen your levels at your first prenatal checkup. If you’re deficient, he’ll recommend that you take an additional supplement of 1,000 to 2,000 IU.
- Zinc: 11 mg. This mineral supports your immune system and healthy cell division.
- Copper: 0.9 mg. Your body uses this trace element to form blood cells as well as maintain nerve, bone and immune system health.
- Vitamin C: 85 mg. You can get plenty of this vitamin, which helps your body to absorb iron and supports your immune system, in your prenatal diet. More than 2,000 mg can be dangerous for your baby — so as always, don’t take a supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamin unless recommended by your doctor.
- Other: Most prenatals contain two to three times the dietary reference intake (DRI) for vitamin E (12 mg), thiamin (1.2mg), riboflavin (1.2 mg), niacin (14 mg) and vitamin B12 (2.2 mg) — and there are no known harmful effects from such doses. Some preparations also contain magnesium, fluoride, biotin, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, extra B6 (to combat queasiness) and/or ginger (ditto).
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan during pregnancy, be sure to tell your doctor to ensure you’re getting the right nutrients in your supplements.
Look for an independent seal of approval
Several groups independently verify dietary supplements (including prenatal vitamins) using rigorous criteria.
However keep in mind that getting approval from one of these groups is a voluntary, not required, step for manufacturers. So if your prenatal vitamin isn’t marked with one of these seals, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not good. Bottom line: If you’re at all concerned about the quality of the supplement you’re taking, talk to your doctor.
Figure out if you can stomach it
Once you choose your prenatal vitamin, you might find you have a tough time stomaching it. The most common reasons (and solutions):
- If you have trouble swallowing it, look for a pill with a slicker coating. You may want to consider a pill sans calcium, since they tend to be smaller (calcium takes up a lot of space — if you do, be sure to talk to your practitioner to be sure you get enough of this essential mineral in other ways). You might also want to try a chewable or liquid prenatal vitamin (though you may have to try a few to find one with a taste that works for you).
- If it makes you feel nauseous, try taking your vitamin with a meal or snack or right before you go to bed. Still having trouble? Try the above tips — or ask your doctor to recommend a different brand that you may be able to stomach better.
- If you’ve got constipation, diarrhea or gas, it could be the extra iron in your pill. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, eat fiber-rich foods and include regular physical activity in your daily routine. If this doesn’t relieve your stomach woes, talk to your doctor about alternatives (i.e., a supplement without iron, or a separate iron preparation that dissolves in the intestines rather than in the more sensitive stomach, or one that is slow-release).
DON’T OVERDO IT
More isn’t better when it comes to vitamins. So stick with the recommended dosage, and don’t take other extra supplements unless your doctor recommends it. Check in with your practitioner, too, if you’re taking herbal supplements; some herbs can be harmful when you’re trying to conceive.
Keep in mind that prenatal vitamins complement a healthy diet, but they don’t replace it. That means it’s still vitally important to eat a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet throughout your pregnancy. Think of your prenatal vitamin as a backup — not the other way around.
Article By: What To Expect