By Shelly Lopez-Gray
First, let me say that there is no such thing as “eating for two.” I know this is a huge disappointment, as many people out there would love to use their pregnancy as an opportunity to eat every single thing that they ever thought tasted good (I know, I’ve been there). But let me fast forward through your pregnancy a bit – it’s unhealthy for you, it’s unhealthy for your baby, and the pregnancy weight is not going to magically fall off.
As you begin your pregnancy, I wanted to share some key things to remember:
- You need about 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy to support your baby’s growth and development.
- Most doctors suggest women gain a total of 1 to 4 pounds total during the first three months of their pregnancy.
- Women who gain too much are more likely to have a large baby or a premature baby.
A premature baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. These mothers may also have health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure that can cause problems during pregnancy.
The total amount of weight gain during your pregnancy depends on your weight when you become pregnant. Talk to your physician or midwife for more information.
Tips to help you create better eating habits:
Watch how much juice you drink. Even all-natural and 100 percent juice is full of sugar and empty calories. If you find it impossible to cut out these sweet drinks, treat yourself to a small glass once a day. If you are gestational diabetic, you should cut these out from your diet.
- Anything canned or frozen is full of salt. Even if it’s a “healthy meal,” it’s still full of salt.
- Try snacking on something healthy every two hours or so.
- If you can pick the food up in a drive-through, it’s probably unhealthy.
Here’s a list of fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and protein foods that are great for women to eat throughout their pregnancy.
- Sweet potatoes
- Cooked greens (such as kale, collards, turnip greens, and beet greens)
- Winter squash
- Tomatoes and tomato sauces
- Red sweet peppers
These vegetables all have both vitamin A and potassium. When choosing canned vegetables, look for “low-sodium” or “no-salt-added” on the label. Vitamin A helps with postpartum tissue repair and helps to fight infection. Potassium helps to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in your body’s cells.
- Honeydew melon
- Red or pink grapefruit
- 100 percent prune juice or orange juice
These fruits all provide potassium, and many also provide vitamin A. When choosing canned fruit, look for those canned in 100 percent fruit juice or water instead of syrup.
- Fat-free or low-fat yogurt
- Fat-free milk (skim milk)
- Low-fat milk (1 percent milk)
- Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage)
These all provide the calcium and potassium you need. Make sure that your choices are fortified with vitamins A and D. A vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can cause growth retardation and skeletal deformities. It also may have an impact on birth weight. Some researchers believe that a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can affect your baby’s bone development and immune function throughout your baby’s life.
- Fortified ready-to-eat cereals
- Fortified cooked cereals
When buying ready-to-eat and cooked cereals, choose those made from whole grains most often. Look for cereals that are fortified with iron and folic acid. Iron is essential for making hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells. During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases almost 50 percent, so you need more iron to make more hemoglobin.
Protein Foods Group
- Beans and peas (such as pinto beans, soybeans, white beans, lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas)
- Nuts and seeds (such as sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, and peanut butter)
- Lean beef, lamb and pork
- Oysters, mussels, crab
- Salmon, trout, herring, sardines, and Pollock
Some types of seafood can contain high levels of mercury. Too much mercury can damage your baby’s developing brain and nervous system. Shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish can contain high levels of mercury.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency say pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week. Similarly, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 8 to 12 ounces of seafood a week for pregnant women – or about two average meals.
Talk to your provider if you have any questions about safe foods during pregnancy.