Healthy Eating During Pregnancy: What You Should Know
A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but especially vital if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Healthy eating keeps you feeling good and gives your baby the essential nutrients they need in the womb. Eating should no longer be about providing nutrition to your own body but to your own body any your baby’s. While every woman is different, you can follow several steps to put you on the right path to a healthy diet.
Firstly, it’s important that you increase the amount of water you drink each day. Your body is composed of up to 60% water so being properly hydrated is important for everyone, but especially during pregnancy. The standard recommendation of six to eight medium (200ml) glasses per day may be difficult to achieve without adding a little flavour with some fruit juice or lemon wedges. So, if you need to do so in the hopes of drinking enough then that is fine.
While pregnant you should Consume a variety of healthy foods from all the basic food groups. Eat a balanced diet that includes all these food groups:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts
- Grains such as breads, rice, or pasta
Eat often throughout the day but eat smaller portions more often. Many women will find it easier to eat a 400-calorie meal every few hours. Drinking more water will also help you with digesting these meals more frequently.
Eat only moderate amounts of foods high in sugar, salt, or saturated fats, such as candy or pastries. These types of food in general aren’t good to include in your diet, but it’s even more important to avoid while pregnant. These foods are often very high in empty calories and will be low in nutrients.
Protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals are needed to give your baby the building blocks to grow. Fats in particular play an important role in the development of the brain and nervous system.
Eating foods that contain protein will help your baby grow. Sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. There are many vegan sources of protein as well! If you are avoiding animal products there are plenty of options for your baby. Make sure that you are eating enough protein every day. Putting some thought into what protein-rich foods you eat, will help your baby develop as he or she should.
Try and read the nutritional information for foods that you eat throughout the day to ensure that you are reaching the recommended protein intake for your baby. During your pregnancy you should get a minimum of 60 grams of protein a day. This accounts for approximately 20 to 25 percent of your calorie intake.
Make sure eggs, poultry, pork, burgers and sausages are cooked all the way through. Raw eggs can carry disease causing organisms like Salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. Make sure you follow the food safety guidelines to reduce any risks. Make sure your meat is fresh and not pink or red in colour, if it still has a bright colour then it might not be cooked properly and could cause you to become sick.
Carbohydrate foods provide essential fuel for both you and your baby during pregnancy. They are also your body’s main source of energy, which is why it’s important to choose healthy carbohydrate foods. Refined sugars and flours have little or no nutritional value so try to cut back on these. Foods that fall into the carbohydrate category include breads, pastas, cereals, rice, some fruits (like bananas), starchy vegetables (like potatoes), dried beans and peas.
Eating meals that are full of carbohydrates will help your body to have a steady energy supply for your baby. If you eat too much protein and not enough carbohydrates, your body will break down muscle to use as energy. For most people, carbohydrates should make up about 50 percent of their total daily calorie intake. Most pregnant and breastfeeding women need about 175-200 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Fats are important during pregnancy too, but remember you need to choose healthy fats. Saturated fats are animal fats and should be used sparingly as they can increase blood cholesterol levels and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Instead, look for labels such as “100% natural” and “no hydrogenated oil.” These oils will help provide energy and nutrients needed by your growing baby. You’ll also find these healthier fats in fish like salmon and certain nuts like walnuts. Health experts recommend keeping total fat intake between 20 and 35 percent of total calories. All women, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should follow these recommendations.
Vitamins and Nutrients
Iron is important during pregnancy because it helps to produce the extra blood needed to supply oxygen across the placenta to the growing foetus. You can find iron in red meat, beans and leaf vegetables such as spinach or kale. Iron is also important after birth when your body begins producing milk for your baby so it’s important not to overlook this nutrient!
Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption during pregnancy, immune functions and brain health. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D so try to take a few minutes outside each day.
Vitamin B12 is vital for the development of red blood cells and nerve function. Vitamin B12 can be found in meats such as chicken, fish and beef as well as eggs and dairy products like milk and yogurt.
Folic acid (and folic acid supplements) helps to prevent birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord which could result in miscarriage or serious health problems for your baby. Folic acid can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli as well legumes like beans and peas.
Food has a huge role during pregnancy as it maintains the health of both mothers and their babies. Practice good nutrition and food safety. Remember, you do not need to entirely remove certain foods that are bad from your diet. Instead choose foods based on the principles of balance variety and moderation. This is the best approach to enjoying a healthy eating plan during pregnancy and for a lifetime.