Good nutrition is always vital to healthy living. And when pregnant it is doubly important. Eating right for pregnancy is key to the health of mother and baby…

Dietary behaviors during pregnancy greatly impacts health outcomes. Therefore the diet must provide enough nutrients to ensure optimal fetal growth.

Lets have a look at what eating right for pregnancy really means…

Increased Nutritional Needs

Macronutrients 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a crucial constituent of a healthy diet. The recommended intake is 45–65% of the total energy. However, an increased caloric intake linked with a greater carbohydrate consumption has been associated with neonatal adiposity, which is obviously harmful.³

Fat

The importance of fat intake in pregnant woman’s diet is obvious, mainly in context of fatty acid composition: DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for brain development and proper functioning of the retina. The recommended intake is 20–35% of the total energy.³

Protein

More protein is needed during pregnancy, to help build important organs for the baby, such as the brain and heart. The recommended intake is 10–35% of the total energy.³

pregnancy-food

Micronutrients

The amounts of some nutrients are increased for pregnant woman.

Folic Acid

Known as folate or vitamin B is crucial for the production of red blood cells and plays an important role in the development of the fetus neural tube.

The recommended amount of folic acid during pregnancy is 600 micrograms a day to prevent birth defects of baby’s brain and spinal cord.¹ The best sources are: leafy green vegetables such as spinach, fortified cereals, breads and rice, dried beans, peas and nuts, citrus fruits, avocado.

Calcium

The principal mineral in bone and teeth, and is responsible for baby’s growth as well as the development of a normal heart rhythm and blood-clotting abilities. The recommended amount of calcium during pregnancy is at least 1,000 milligrams a day, if a pregnant women does not meet these daily needs the mineral will be drawn from the stores in her bones and given to the fetus.¹ The best sources are: milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, salmon, almonds and leafy green vegetables.

Iron

This is needed to support baby’s developing brain and to help maintain a healthy supply of oxygen in the blood. The recommended amount of iron during pregnancy is 27 milligrams a day to prevent anemia and infections.¹ The best sources are: meat, poultry, fish, green vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.

Gestational weight gain

Healthy eating and physical activity are promoted to prevent extreme gestational weight gain. Maternal overweight and obesity is associated with complications such as hypertension, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes.²

Appropriate gestational weight gain depends on the BMI of the women before pregnancy.³ • BMI < 18.5 kg/m²: Gestational weight gain = 12.5-18 kg • BMI = 18.5–24.9 kg/m²: Gestational weight gain = 11.5-16 kg • BMI = 25–30 kg/m²: Gestational weight gain = 7-11.5 kg

Food to avoid:

Alcohol: Alcohol can pass straight from mother’s blood 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 including physical problems and problems with behavior and learning.³

Caffeine: Heavy use of caffeine is linked with an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.³

Food containing methylmercury: Seafood contains high levels of methylmercury, and should be avoided during pregnancy. Methylmercury is a toxic chemical that can pass through the placenta and can be harmful to the brain, kidneys and nervous system of the fetus.³

Unpasteurized food: Pregnant women are at high risk for falling ill from food poisoning: listeriosis, caused by the Listeria bacteria, and toxoplasmosis, caused by a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii.³

The following food must be avoided: Unpasteurized milk, salads, hot dogs, unpasteurized refrigerated meats.

Food cravings

It is common for women to develop a sudden craving for a particular food during pregnancy. Common cravings include: sweets, spicy foods, fluids, fruits.

It is fine to satisfy these cravings as long as the intake of junk and processed foods is limited.

Eating for two

This DOES NOT mean double your calories! But it does mean to double the nutrients by eating healthier and having small portions of fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy foods throughout the day. It is recommended for pregnant woman 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.

If there is one message to take away from this article, it is that eating right for pregnancy is not a luxury, it is a necessity!

Article by Titsiana Mahayri

References

1- Kominiarek, M. A., & Rajan, P. (2016). Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Medical Clinics of North America, 100(6), 1199–1215.

2- Guelinckx, I., Devlieger, R., Beckers, K., & Vansant, G. (2008). Maternal obesity: pregnancy complications, gestational weight gain and nutrition. Obesity Reviews: An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 9(2), 140–150.

3- Danielewicz, H., Myszczyszyn, G., Dębińska, A., Myszkal, A., Boznański, A., & Hirnle, L. (2017). Diet in pregnancy—more than food. European Journal of Pediatrics, 176(12), 1573–1579.

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