Sure you are eating for two when you are pregnant, but it is not just about how much you eat, it is also about what you eat. An expectant mom needs about 300 extra calories a day, particularly towards the end of pregnancy when the baby grows rapidly. Those extra calories should come from nutritious foods so that they can help in your baby’s growth and development.
Why it is important to eat healthy
On average, an expectant mom gains about 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. But when you think about it, a new born baby weighs much, much less than that. So what’s all that extra weight? Here’s a break down of what makes up all of that baby weight:
- 7.5 pounds: average baby’s weight
- 7 pounds: extra stored protein, fat, and other nutrients
- 4 pounds: extra blood
- 4 pounds: other extra body fluids
- 2 pounds: breast enlargement
- 2 pounds: enlargement of your uterus
- 2 pounds: amniotic fluid surrounding your baby
- 1.5 pounds: the placenta
Of course, pregnancy weight gain is different for every woman. If you start out heavier, it is normal to gain less. It is also normal to gain more pregnancy weight if your expecting twins, or if were underweight prior to getting pregnant. But more important than how much weight you gain is what makes up those extra pounds.
Your baby gets its nourishment mainly from what you eat and drink. According to new findings, the connection between what you consume and your baby’s health is much stronger than previously thought. This is why doctors warn against any amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
More than just empty calories
The extra food you consume should be more than just empty calories. They should provide nutrients that your baby needs. For instance, you still need calcium while you are pregnant to keep your bones and teeth strong, but you also need calcium for your developing baby. The same goes for other essential nutrients that you need to stay healthy before you got pregnant.
Nutrition primer for expectant moms
Regardless whether you are pregnant or not, a healthy balanced diet consists of carbohydrates, fats, minerals, protein, vitamins, and plenty of water. The US government provides dietary guidelines that can help you determine the serving amount of each kind of food you eat everyday.
Food labels provide information on the kinds of nutrients that are in the foods you eat. The RDA in food labels means Recommended Daily Allowance, or the amount of a nutrient recommended for your daily diet. When you are pregnant, your RDAs increase.
Below are some nutrients that you need and their food sources:
Protein is necessary for cell growth and blood production. The best sources of protein include lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, beans, peanut butter, and tofu.
Carbs provide the energy you need everyday. Some of the best carb sources include: breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruits, and vegetables.
Calcium is necessary to build strong bones, and teeth. It is also important in muscle contraction and nerve function. Great sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines or salmon with bones, spinach.
Iron is necessary in red blood cell production (needed to prevent anemia). Good food source of iron include lean red meat, spinach, iron-fortified whole-grain breads and cereals
Vitamin A is important in maintaining healthy skin, good eyesight, and growing bones. Some of the best vitamin A sources include carrots, dark leafy greens, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C is crucial in maintaining healthy gums, teeth, and bones. Vitamin C also assists with iron absorption. Great vitamin C source include citrus fruit, broccoli, tomatoes, fortified fruit juices.
Vitamin B6 is important in red blood cell formation. It also plays an important role in the effective use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Good vitamin B6 sources include pork, ham, whole-grain cereals, and bananas.
is also crucial in the formation of red blood cells. It is also necessary in maintaining nervous system health. Some vitamin B12 food sources include meat, fish, poultry, and milk. (Important: vegetarians who don’t eat dairy products need B12 supplements).
Vitamin D aids in absorption of calcium. Thus they are important in building bones and teeth. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, dairy products, cereals, and breads.
Folic acid is crucial in blood and protein production, as well as for effective enzyme function. Some of the best sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, dark yellow fruits and vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts.
Fats are the bodies’ energy stores. Source of fat include meat, whole-milk dairy products, nuts, peanut butter, margarine, and vegetable oils. It is important though to limit fat intake to 30% or less of your total daily calorie intake since excess fats can lead to a number medical conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Your diet and your baby’s health
You diet can affect your baby’s health and development even before you get pregnant. For instance, new research reports that folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects [including spina bifida] from happening during the earliest stages of your baby’s development. Thus, it is important to take in plenty f folic acid before you get pregnant, and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is why doctors recommend taking folic acid supplements before and throughout your pregnancy – especially for the first 28 days.