For most mothers to be, the joy of having a child grow inside them is often coupled with the anxiety of whether they’re developing properly.

Pregnant women are frequently bombarded with health drinks, foods, supplements and advice telling them what and what not to eat. This can easily get frustrating and lead to unnecessary stress.

If you find yourself in such a state, don’t worry! With the right information and some guidance, you can overcome anything. So, sit back, grab your pregnancy pillows and read on.

Essential Nutrients For A Healthy Pregnancy

According to the American College of Obstetricians, for optimal body and fetal health, pregnant women need to include more calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, protein, iron, and zinc in their diets than they did before pregnancy.
Here’s why:
  • Calcium
Babies need calcium to develop their teeth and bones. Furthermore, having adequate calcium levels in the body reduces the risk of Precambrian.

A calcium deficiency will cause the fetus to extract the mineral straight from the mother’s bones. In very rare cases, this could lead to an extreme deficiency and eventually cause osteoporosis. Hence, it is recommended that pregnant women get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.

Foods rich in calcium include dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
  • Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for the growth of the baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women should be consuming 600 IU of vitamin D per day.

Foods rich in vitamin D include egg yolks, cheese, salmon, beef liver, etc.
  • Folic Acid
Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects that might occur in the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

As a result, your gynecologist may have already informed you about the importance of consuming more folic acid. Despite your efforts to ensure you get the appropriate amount, it’s difficult to achieve this via food alone.

This is why it’s absolutely essential that you start taking supplements. Women are often advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day for a month before getting pregnant. This should be increased to 600 micrograms per day once they are pregnant.

Foods rich in folic acid include leafy green vegetables, pasta, bread, cereals, beans, etc.
  • Protein
Pregnant women need a lot of protein to help the baby develop their important organs and muscles. Fortunately, it is easy to get enough of this macronutrient via food.

Foods rich in protein include nuts, meat, fish, eggs, etc.
  • Iron
Women need twice the amount of iron than they did before they fell pregnant - about 27 milligrams per day. It's also not OK for a pregnant woman to be in alcohol, see experts alcohol addiction facts to learn more about the negative side effects of alcohol consumption in pregnancy.

Iron is necessary for supplying the baby with enough blood and oxygen. An iron deficiency will lead to anemia so you’ll feel weaker and be more vulnerable to illnesses.

When consuming iron-rich foods, include a vitamin C-rich food as well, to maximize the absorption of the iron in your body.

Foods rich in iron include leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, beans, lentils, etc.
  • Zinc
Pregnant women with sufficient zinc levels in their blood are 14% less likely to have a premature delivery than those who don't. Hence, they are advised to consume no more than 40 milligrams of zinc per day.

Foods rich in zinc include dairy products, seeds, meat, legumes, etc.

Pregnancy Weight Gain: How Much Should I Expect to Gain?

Weight gain is one of the major expected changes that accompany pregnancy. If you’re interested in all the crazy and fascinating things that no one tells you about being pregnant and other useful health related articles, check this out to have your mind blown.

If you’re unsure about what weight range to stay within during your pregnancy, the Institute of Medicine, USA recommends that:
  • An underweight woman who has a BMI below 18.5 should gain 28 to 40 pounds.
  • A person with a normal weight who has a BMI between 18.5 to 24.9 should gain 25 to 35 pounds. 
  • An overweight woman who has a BMI between 25.0 to 29.9 should gain 15 to 25 pounds.
  • An obese woman who has a BMI of 30+ should gain 11 to 20 pounds.

Ideal Portion Sizes For Each Food Group

When you’re pregnant, every meal should be rich in nutrients to meet your daily requirements. In a typical meal, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it should be whole grains and the remaining quarter should be a lean protein. End the meal with a glass of milk.

Hence, your total daily food intake should consist of:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Get at least two to four servings of fruit and four or more servings of vegetables per day, especially during your second and third trimester.
  • Whole Grains: Eat six to 11 servings of whole grains per day.
  • Proteins: Eat about three servings of protein per day.
  • Dairy Products: Eat three to four servings of dairy per day.

Foods To Restrict

Certain foods, if consumed in high amounts, can be harmful for the baby during pregnancy.

Therefore, pregnant mothers should take extra care to keep their portion sizes of these foods in check.
  • Fish 
Fish is rich in protein and Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids which are essential for heart health. Pregnant women can eat eight to 12 servings of cooked fish or seafood per week. Do not eat white tuna, swordfish, shark or king mackerel as they’re high in mercury which can be harmful for you and your baby.
  • Caffeinated Foods and Beverages
If you’re a big fan of a morning cuppa, you’re safe from the adverse consequences of caffeine overconsumption during pregnancy. Remember that you shouldn’t drink more than two mugs of instant coffee (200 mg) per day.

Foods To Steer Clear Of

There are certain foods you must avoid at all costs as they can greatly harm your baby or worse, induce a miscarriage. These include:
  • Raw/Unpasteurized Animal Products
Unpasteurized or raw animal products such as milk, blue-veined cheese, cold cuts, frozen salads, and raw eggs harbour the listeria bacteria that can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, premature labor or newborn death. 

Furthermore, the mother can pass a toxoplasma infection from consuming these foods to the baby which may later cause blindness or mental disability. 
  • Junk Foods
Everybody loves their sugar and fat-laden junk foods. Unfortunately, these foods are very low in nutrients and will make you feel deceptively full for a short amount of time.

This can encourage overeating and cause unnecessary weight gain. Eating plenty of junk food can cause malnutrition and negatively affect your baby’s growth.
  • Alcohol
Alcohol abuse during pregnancy can cause the alcohol to enter the baby’s bloodstream directly through the umbilical cord. This can later cause fetal alcohol syndrome where the baby is born with facial differences, hyperactivity, and behavioral and learning disabilities.

Debunking Pregnancy Diet Myths

There is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding the proper pregnancy diet. Let’s look at some common ones:

  • Myth: Cure Morning Sickness by Curbing Food Intake

Although the exact causes of morning sickness is not known, it’s thought to be caused by low blood sugar or hormonal changes. Instead of trying to cut down on food, curb your morning sickness by eating smaller, more frequent portions of plain, non-smelly food.
  • Myth: Giving into Food Cravings Without Further Investigation
It’s extremely common for women to develop cravings for certain foods or even non-food items while they’re pregnant. Cravings may signify a deficiency in a particular nutrient. Visiting your doctor may help you get to the root of this problem.
  • Myth: Overeating to Ensure Fetus Gets Sufficient Nutrients
There is a common misconception among pregnant women that they should eat for two. This is in fact not the case. Pregnant women should have the same caloric intake as before for the first trimester.

They are, however, advised to add 200 calories to their current caloric intake for the second trimester and increase that to 300 calories for the third trimester to support the rapid growth of the baby.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the above information has given you some direction on how to start your healthy eating journey during pregnancy.Make sure to visit your gynecologist before you start a diet plan or take any new supplements. We hope you’re blessed with a healthy and easy pregnancy. Good luck!

Comfortskillz

Safe Milli

Safe Milli is a graduate of FPI, he studied office technology and management. He is a young enterpreur who loves to share his thoughts on latest technology trends, new business ideas and opportunities, how-tos related topics. You can chat with him on Facebook for enquiry.

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