If you are planning to become pregnant or are currently pregnant this is the time to be focusing on eating healthfully. Portion control, eating a balanced diet and getting the vitamins your body needs are key to healthy baby making.
Let's go through the old school food pyramid and talk about some of the foods you should and should not be consuming while pregnant.
This is your bodies fuel. I have done a lot of running in my time and have come to appreciate and respect carbohydrates. In our society they have become a bad word but let me tell you, when you are pregnant you will need good sources of these nutrients in your diet. Broken down, carbohydrates are converted to glucose which give yo and your baby the energy it needs. When you are expecting, surprisingly enough fat is the primary source of energy for you, BUT glucose and amino acids are the primary source of energy for your growing baby.
Your daily caloric intake should include between 45-65% carbohydrate-rich foods including bread, rice, cereal, fruit and vegetables. The other big consideration when choosing carbohydrates is fiber. Aim to consume between 25-35 grams of fiber a day while pregnant. Foods higher in fiber include whole wheat bread, fruit with the skin on, raw vegetables, whole-grain cereals and whole-grain/whole wheat pasta. These high fiber carbohydrates are considered complex carbohydrates opposed to simple carbohydrates which include simple sugar foods like candies, white bread and pastries. Complex carbohydrates will leave you feeling full and satisfied for longer, sustaining your energy levels whereas simple carbohydrates will give you a spike in energy but will quickly leave you feeling drained again.
If you haven't already, this is a great time to start substituting simple carbs for complex carbs. Here are a few ideas.
- Instead of a sourdough English muffin, try a whole-wheat fiber English muffin
- Oatmeal instead of Reeses puffs
- Honey whole-wheat pancake batter instead of regular
- Whole-grain tortillas instead of flour
- Whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta
- Side salad instead of French fries
- Fresh fruit for dessert instead of cookies
When you are making a baby you will need plenty of protein. Protein converts to amino acids which make new cells as well as manufacture the enzymes and hormones that regulate your body. You will need somewhere around 70 grams of protein a day. Don't worry, if you are not a big meat eater protein can be found in nuts, legumes, dairy, eggs, and grains. Fortunately, a lot of protein sources also have great vitamins in them as well for example, milk is a great source of protein and also has calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. If you are a vegetarian you will need to consume plenty of nuts, legumes and seeds. Talk to your healthcare provider for additional ideas on how to ensure you are meeting your protein requirements for your babies development.
Ideas for incorporating protein:
- Eggs for breakfast, hard boil a few to put in the fridge if you are on the go
- Breakfast smoothie with milk and greek yogurt
- Peanut butter, banana sandwich for lunch
- Grill a good amount of marinated chicken at one time to have on hand for lunches and dinners
- Keep almonds or your favorite nuts in your purse for snacks
- Choose black beans for your side at your favorite Mexican restaurant
When pregnant, your body depends on fat for your energy! You will need to consume between 20-35 percent of your daily intake from fat. Fats can be a very complex and a bit complicated to understand because they are NOT all alike. Let's talk about the good, the bad and the VERY bad.
Good fats include unsaturated fats which can do great things for the body including improve cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation, acting as a natural lubricant. These fats come from plants such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Unsaturated fats are then broken down into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.
Monounsaturated fats include: peanuts, olive oil, canola oil, avocados, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds.
Polyunsaturated fats include: Omega-3 fats from fish, flax seeds, corn oil, walnuts and sunflower oil.
Examples of ways to incorporate these good fats:
- Use peanut butter or almond butter instead of cream cheese
- Cook meats and veggies in olive oil instead of butter
- Top your salads with nuts and seeds instead of croutons
Let's move on to the bad fats. These are saturated fat. Our bodies do not require us to consume any additional saturated fat so that is why they are not in the good category but many of the foods that have saturated fat do have other important nutrients in them. Examples of foods containing saturated fats are meats, whole-milk dairy (whole milk, ice cream & cheese) and seafood.
Ick! On to the VERY bad fats. These are trans-fats. Many times these are coming from the very processed foods we find towards the middle of the supermarket. Cookies, graham crackers, chips, crackers. Trans-fats are also very widely found in fast food restaurants and many sit down restaurants for that matter. Manufacturers and restaurant owners want their foods to last so they have to use a process called hydrogenation to maintain freshness. Unfortunately, this process takes out many of the nutrients in foods and leaves very little for the body to use for good. So it is best to stay away from these foods as much as possible. Look on labels for anything that says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and DON'T BUY IT!
Vitamins & Minerals
Your baby is growing at such a fast pace that it is going to be very important to supply that baby with certain vitamins and minerals to support its rapid growth. Let's cover the most important of these vitamins and minerals and where you can incorporate them into your diet.
If you are not yet pregnant, folate is something you can start incorporating into your diet now! Folate helps to develop the baby's neural tube which will become the spinal cord. This development happens so early in your pregnancy, which is why it is a good idea to begin consuming foods high in folate even before you know you are carrying. Sources of folate include breakfast cereal, spinach, orange juice, avocados, fortified pasta or bread, romaine lettuce and peanuts.
When you think of calcium you probably think of strong bones. I know I do. Well, you are making a little human being inside of you and that little human is developing bones that need calcium too. The amazing part about pregnancy and creating a baby is our body will give that baby anything it needs. It will reserve nutrients and give it to your baby exactly when it needs them. BUT with that being said, if you are not consuming enough calcium throughout your pregnancy, especially in that final trimester your body will pull calcium from your bones and give it to your baby. You need to be consuming approximately 1000 mg of calcium a day. You can find this in skim milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, American cheese, Swiss cheese, soy or almond milk.
Iron is a vital part of your pregnancy diet because it delivers oxygen to your growing baby. So during the months you are pregnant you will need twice as much iron as you normally do. This comes out to around 27 mg per day. You can find iron in foods such as tomatoes, kiwi, oranges, and strawberries. Also look for foods that are iron-fortified such as cereals and breads. Red meat, shrimp and legumes are high in iron as well. You will be tested for anemia somewhere between your twenty-four and twenty-six week mark and may be prescribed an iron supplement if you are not consuming enough of this mineral.
Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, milk, liver
Thiamin: pork, whole grains, enriched grain products, lentils
Riboflavin: dairy products, enriched grains such as cereal
Pantothenic acid: yogurt, sweet potatoes, eggs
Niacin: meat, poultry, seafood, fortified grains
Vitamin B6: poutry, fish, pork, bananas
Vitamin B12: salmon, tuna, Wheat Chex cereal
Vitamin C: red bell pepper, orange juice, strawberries
Zinc: oysters, Total cereal, turkey
Choline: eggs, broccoli, shrimp
Magnesium: spinach, brown rice, halibut, whole-wheat bread
Sodium: cottage cheese, soup, corn
Potassium: sweet potato, banana, halibut, white beans
Iodine: dairy products and table salt
Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
According to Mayo Clinic, here is a list of foods you should avoid while pregnant:
- Avoid seafood high in mercury such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish. Limit albacore tuna and tuna steak to no more than 6 oz a week.
- Avoid raw, undercooked seafood (i.e. sushi). Avoid undercooked meat, poultry and eggs -- which means burgers need to be cooked all the way through, no pink and eggs should be cooked until the egg yolks and whites are firm.
- Avoid unpasteurized foods such as soft cheeses, such as Brie, feta and blue cheese. If they are marked clearly that they are made with pasteurized milk than they are fine. You can ask your server at restaurants to check on this too!
- Avoid unwashed fruits & vegetables or raw sprouts of any kind -- they can contain disease-causing bacteria.
- Avoid excess caffeine which means limiting the amount to less than 200 mg per day. Some studies suggest that drinking too much caffeine during pregnancy might be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage so be cautious.
- Avoid herbal tea unless it is clearly marketed specifically for pregnant women.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco. No level of these substances has been proved safe during pregnancy so it is safest to avoid entirely.