The boiled-down basics for eating right while expecting. Trying to figure out what you can and can’t eat during pregnancy is complicated! This simple primer can help you keep it all straight and set you on the perfect nutritional path (without too much fuss!).
Wondering how you’ll need to change your diet to accommodate your growing body and developing baby? Here’s the lowdown: Eat healthy, add about 300 calories to your diet, and make sure you’re taking a good prenatal supplement with folic acid, iron, and calcium. That’s the boiled-down, bare-bones basics. But what exactly does that mean?
Without getting into the complexities of pregnancy nutrition (what foods are best for your growing body, how to not eat for two, how to influence your unborn baby’s taste buds, and on and on …), here’s a look at the main rules to live by.
Go for Six Small Meals
Spread your food intake over several small meals, instead of the usual three square meals daily. The idea is to keep you and your baby properly fueled all day long. By equilibrating a stable blood sugar, meals spread out throughout the day will prevent dizziness and fatigue. Even skipping just one meal is enough to have you swagger to a chair with dizziness. Also, grazing through your day is more likely to keep some food in the stomach all of the time, buffering acid and decreasing pregnancy heartburn. Six small mini-meals are better than three larger ones.
Focus on a Variety
Thinking of food groups or the food pyramid is a tidy way to categorize nutrition and how best to eat, but try not to eat just one group for a single meal. For instance, if you had your protein and vegetables for lunch, an all sugar and starch supper is a bad idea. The way to go is to have an even mix, every meal. Aim to include a combination of the following in each of your meals:
- Meats, fish, poultry (including eggs)
- Dairy group
- Fruits and vegetables (for Vitamin C and Vitamin A)
- Bread, cereals, legumes, and peas (vegetarians can get their iron from beans and their protein from beans and nuts)
Get the Right Vitamins
It is important to take your prenatal vitamins. Speak with your healthcare provider to find out what qualities will best suit you in a prenatal.
Be Mindful of Minerals
There’s a lot of bone-making going on in your baby. If you don’t take enough calcium in, your baby will sift what he needs first, leaving what little may be left for you. If your diet includes dairy products, you’re fine. Zinc and other minerals are important, but these and the protein, fat, and sugars you need should come naturally from a healthy diet.
Take Folic Acid
Of all of the vitamins championed in pregnancy, folic acid (“folate,” a B vitamin) has particular importance in your baby’s neurological development. Make sure your prenatal vitamin gives you what you need (400 mcg), but keep in mind leafy green vegetables, asparagus, whole grains, liver, beans, and peas are also good sources.
There are changes in your blood during pregnancy, and iron is essential in the goings-on. Iron is necessary for red blood cell production. Therefore, extra iron is needed in your diet. Again, your prenatal vitamins should satisfy this extra need, but things like liver, spinach, and green leafy vegetables are good sources of iron, too. Oh, yes, and sardines!