What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment. So, Nkateko Amin Consultant Dieticians recommend that a mother-to-be choose a variety of healthy foods and beverages to provide the important nutrients a baby needs for growth and development.
A pregnant woman needs more calcium, folic acid, iron and protein than a woman who is not expecting.
Foods to eat
During pregnancy, the goal is to be eating nutritious foods most of the time. To maximize prenatal nutrition, We suggests emphasizing the following five food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products.
When counseling pregnant women, We recommends they fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein, and to also have a dairy product at every meal.
Fruits and vegetables: Pregnant women should focus on fruits and vegetables, particularly during the second and third trimesters. These colorful foods are low in calories and filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Lean protein: Pregnant women should include good protein sources at every meal to support the baby’s growth. Protein-rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds.
Whole grains: These foods are an important source of energy in the diet, and they also provide fiber, iron and B-vitamins. At least half of a pregnant woman’s carbohydrate choices each day should come from whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta or breads and brown rice.
Dairy: Aim for 3 to 4 servings of dairy foods a day. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese are good dietary sources of calcium, protein and vitamin D.
In addition to a healthy diet, pregnant women also need to take a daily prenatal vitamin to obtain some of the nutrients that are hard to get from foods alone, such as folic acid and iron, according to ACOG.
For women who take chewable prenatal vitamins, We advised checking the product labels, because chewables might not have sufficient iron levels in them.
Foods to limit
Caffeine: Consuming fewer than 200 mg of caffeine a day, which is the amount found in one 12-ounce cup of coffee, is generally considered safe during pregnancy. The moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy does not appear to contribute to miscarriage or premature birth.
Fish: Fish is a good source of lean protein, and some fish, including salmon and sardines, also contain omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that’s good for the heart. It is safe for pregnant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces of cooked fish and seafood a week. However, they should limit albacore or “white” tuna, which has high levels of mercury, to no more than 6 once a week. Mercury is a metal that can be harmful to a baby’s developing brain. Canned light tuna has less mercury than albacore “white” tuna and is safer to eat during pregnancy.
Foods to avoid
Alcohol: Avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol in the mother’s blood can pass directly to the baby through the umbilical cord. Heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy has been linked with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, a group of conditions that can include physical problems, as well as learning and behavioral difficulties in babies and children.
Fish with high levels of mercury: Seafood such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy and tilefish are high in levels of methyl mercury, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and should be avoided during pregnancy. Methyl mercury is a toxic chemical that can pass through the placenta and can be harmful to an unborn baby’s developing brain, kidneys and nervous system.
Unpasteurized food: Pregnant women are at high risk for getting sick from two different types of food poisoning: listeriosis, caused by the Listeria bacteria, and toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite.
Listeria infection may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, and illness or death in newborns. To avoid listeriosis, the Nkateko Amin Consultant Dietitians recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:
- Unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it, such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso blanco and queso fresco. Pasteurization involves heating a product to a high temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
- Hot dogs, luncheon meats and cold cuts unless heated to steaming hot before eating to kill any bacteria.
- Store-bought deli salads, such as ham salad, chicken salad, tuna salad and seafood salad.
- Unpasteurized refrigerated meat spreads or pates.
Raw meat: A mother can pass a Toxoplasma infection on to her baby, which can cause problems such as blindness and mental disability later in life, reports the CDC. To prevent toxoplasmosis, we recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:
- Rare, raw or undercooked meats and poultry.
- Raw fish, such as sushi, sashimi, ceviches and carpaccio.
- Raw and undercooked shellfish, such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops.
Some foods may increase a pregnant woman’s risk for other types of food poisoning, including illness caused by salmonella and E. coli bacteria. Foodsafety.gov lists these foods to avoid during pregnancy, and why they pose a threat:
- Raw or undercooked eggs, such as soft-cooked, runny or poached eggs.
- Foods containing undercooked eggs, such as raw cookie dough or cake batter, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, homemade ice cream, homemade eggnog, Hollandaise sauce.
- Raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover.
- Unpasteurized juice or cider.
Pregnancy diet misconceptions
When a mother-to-be is experiencing morning sickness, the biggest mistake she can make is thinking that if she doesn’t eat, she’ll feel better.
The exact causes of morning sickness are not known, but it may be caused by hormonal changes or lower blood sugar. This common complaint can bring vomiting in some women, especially during the first three months of pregnancy.
And it’s definitely not happening only in the morning. It’s any time of day. To ease morning sickness, it’s better to eat small amounts of foods that don’t have an odor, since smells can also upset the stomach, she suggested.
It is common for women to develop a sudden urge or a strong dislike for a food during pregnancy. Some common cravings are for sweets, salty foods, red meat or fluids. Often, a craving is a body’s way of saying it needs a specific nutrient, such as more protein or additional liquids to quench a thirst, rather than a particular food, she said.
Eating for two
When people say that a pregnant woman is “eating for two,” it doesn’t mean she needs to consume twice as much food or double her calories.
“A woman is not eating for two during her first trimester,” Nkateko Amin Consultant Dietitians says. During the first three months, We tell women that their calorie needs are basically the same as they were before pregnancy. During the first trimester.
We typically advises pregnant women to add 200 calories to their usual dietary intake during the second trimester, and to add 300 calories during their third trimester when the baby is growing quickly.
Weight gain during pregnancy
“Weight gain during pregnancy often has an ebb and a flow over the nine months,”. It’s hard to measure where pregnancy weight is going, adding that a scale does not reveal whether the kilograms are going to a woman’s body fat, baby weight or fluid gains.
When it comes to pregnancy weight gain, We advises mothers-to-be to look at the big picture: During regular prenatal checkups, focus on the fact that the baby is growing normally rather than worrying about the number on a scale.