Nutrition During Pregnancy

Having a baby is an exciting time that may inspire you to adopt some new nutritional and lifestyle habits! Eating well can sustain your energy levels, strengthen your immune system, and help alleviate some unpleasant symptoms you may experience during pregnancy.

Now that you’re trying to eat on behalf of you and your baby, we can imagine that you might have a few questions! Below are some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve come across.

Healthy Tips and Recommendations

  1. What should be in my prenatal vitamin?

A standard prenatal multivitamin with iron and folic acid will most likely satisfy your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. The multivitamin should contain at least 15 to 30 mg of iron to prevent iron deficiency anemia. It should also have at least 0.4 mg of folic acid to help prevent spinal defects. Folic acid occurs naturally in several foods, including leafy vegetables, peas, eggs, and milk.

  1. How can I get enough water during pregnancy?

Try to drink throughout the day and not only when you feel thirsty. We recommend 8 to 12 cups of water a day.

If drinking plain water sounds boring to you, feel free to get creative with it! Try infusing your water with fruits, herbs, and vegetables to make your hydration efforts fun and tasty. New to infusing drinks? Check out this link for some recipe inspiration.

  1. How much should I be eating/ gaining?

As much as we might want to believe the saying “eat for two”, eating twice the norm is not healthy in pregnancy. On the other hand, think of it as eating twice as healthy!

In the first trimester, you won’t need to increase your daily caloric intake. In the second and third trimesters, if you are pregnant with one fetus (singleton pregnancy), you should aim to add on 340 and 540 kcal/day, respectively. If you are carrying twins, you should consume an extra 600 kcal/day in the second trimester

Recommended weight gain depends on your pre-pregnancy BMI. See the table below from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Body Mass Index (BMI) Before PregnancyRate of Weight Gain in the Second and Third Trimesters*

(Pounds Per Week)

Recommended Total Weight Gain With a Single Fetus (in Pounds)Recommended Total Weight Gain With Twins (in Pounds)
Less than 18.51.0 to 1.328 to 40Not known
18.5 to 24.90.8 to 1.025 to 3537 to 54
25.0 to 29.90.5 to 0.715 to 2531 to 50
30.0 and above0.4 to 0.611 to 2025 to 42

*Assumes a first-trimester weight gain between 1.1 and 4.4 pounds

Source: Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2009. Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  1. What micronutrients should I be consuming?

Aim for 200-600 international units of Vitamin D a day, as this will help with the development of your baby’s bones and teeth, and 27 mg of Iron per day to help with your body’s extra blood production. You also want to consume at least 1,000 mg of elemental calcium per day. If you would like to avoid dairy products, you can find calcium in broccoli, sardines, almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables.

  1. What is choline?

Choline is an essential nutrient that is important for the fetus’s brain development. You should consume 450 mg per day. It’s important to note that choline is not found in most prenatal vitamins, so you should meet the requirements with the consumption of chicken, beef, eggs, milk, soy products and/or peanuts.

  1. Can I still drink coffee and caffeinated drinks?

Of course! We wouldn’t want you to have to take away your favorite morning beverage. However, you should aim on consuming less than 200 mg of caffeine per day (~12oz of coffee) to prevent any adverse reproductive and developmental effects during your pregnancy.

  1. What foods/ drinks should I avoid?
  • Any amount of alcohol. This includes wine, beer, and hard liquor.
  • Fish with high mercury content. This includes shark, Bigeye tuna, swordfish, King mackerel, and marlin.
  • Unpasteurized, uncooked food. This includes raw cookie dough, undercooked meats (be sure to even reheat your deli meats!), undercooked/raw seafood, and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized or raw milk.
  • Anything that is not food! If you have any nonfood cravings such as paint chips or clay, you should visit your doctor, since you may be lacking a certain nutrient in your diet.

 

  1. Should the food groups I eat from change throughout my pregnancy?

Yes, they should evolve during your pregnancy journey! Until your 16th week of gestation, you shouldn’t worry too much about drastically changing your previously followed diet (which is hopefully a mix of healthy fats/ oils, and all five food groups, including grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dairy products). After your 16th week gestation, it would benefit you and our baby’s health to focus primarily on proteins, vegetables, and fruits. We also recommend that you eliminate sweets and white grains such as white pastas, cereals, and breads.

  1. What can I eat or drink to lessen my nausea and vomiting?
    Try to eat frequent, small meals and avoid fatty foods. You might also find it helpful to keep crackers at the bedside and eat them upon wakening. Some have also found ginger root capsules, candied ginger, and raspberry herbal tea beneficial.
  2. How can I plan healthy meals with little free time?

We understand how busy your schedule can be! Which is why tools such as MyPlate, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, can be so helpful. Check it our here,  www.myplate.gov.

 

Our Summary of Tips

  • Talk to your health care professional about your proper goals of weight gain, and to track your progress.
  • For safe food handling, remember to always wash, clean, cook, and properly chill your foods.
  • Eat foods high in fiber and always remember to drink water to avoid constipation.
  • Avoid alcohol, undercooked/ raw fish, fish high in mercury content, undercooked meat, and soft cheeses.
  • Stick to vegetables, fruits, and proteins after 16th week of gestation.
  • Aim to continue these new healthy nutritional habits post-partum!

 

Additional Resources

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