Pregnancy is an exciting time of life. Finding out your pregnant can fill your mind with all kind of questions - Am I eating the right foods for my growing baby? Am I getting enough sleep? Will stress hurt my baby? Will my baby be healthy? Hopefully we can help answer some of your questions about nutrition during your pregnancy.
It is commonly said that you are eating for two when you are pregnant. This is true. You are the only source for your growing baby's nutrition. However, your baby is a tiny being and does not have the caloric needs as an adult. The metabolic rate increases as much as 25% during pregnancy. The recommended calorie increase for pregnant women is approximately 300 calories more per day (based off a 2100 calorie diet equals a total of 2400 calories a day). This may be more or less depending on your weight prior to pregnancy. So now you know about calories, but what foods should these calories include?
We'll begin with protein. By the time a fetus is born, 900 grams of protein are stored in the fetus. So extra protein is an essential component in a pregnant woman's diet. Proteins are used in building your baby's brain cells and a critical part in proper brain development. Sixty grams of protein is recommended during pregnancy. Protein is found in animal products and dairy products. Cheese, eggs, fish, chicken, beef, lamb, and yogurt are some examples of protein sources. You can also find incomplete proteins in sources such as cereals, grains, pasta, legumes, beans, peanuts, broccoli, peas, and leafy green vegetables. Complimentary proteins only give you part of your protein needs so they need to be combined with other complimentary proteins to make a complete protein. They don't have to be eaten at the same meal. Here is a sample of how much 60 grams of protein a day would include 4 oz pot roast, 3 oz chicken, 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of cereal, and 1 cup of broccoli.
Calcium is another nutrient that a pregnant woman needs to increase. Calcium and phosphorous are needed for your baby's bone and tooth formation. You need approximately 1200 mg of calcium a day during pregnancy and lactation. Calcium can be found in dairy products and some plant sources of calcium are green leafy vegetables. Add two ounces of cheese and a cup of orange juice with added calcium to the above sample meal and you have your 1200 mg of calcium.
What about iron? Yep, you guessed it. You need more iron during pregnancy. You need 30 mg of iron for pregnancy. It may be difficult to get enough iron in diet intake alone. This is why your doctor will usually prescribe an iron supplement. The sample meal above only provided about 5 grams of iron. Some good sources of iron include lean meats, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, and whole grain cereals.
Folic acid is something you've probably heard about at your doctors office or in magazines. Folic acid is needed for healthy embryotic tissue in the fetus. It has been shown to prevent neural tube defects. Food sources for folic acid include fresh green leafy vegetables, peanuts, liver, whole grain breads, and cereals. Your doctor will probably prescribe a prenatal vitamin that includes extra folic acid.
Now you know some of the foods you should consume, but what should you avoid. First and foremost alcohol should always be avoided during pregnancy. There is a risk of permanent damage to the baby and it is not known how much alcohol is needed to cause this damage. It's just not worth the risk. You should also avoid food high in sodium content or nitrates during pregnancy. Some examples of which are processed foods, canned foods, and hot dogs. These foods contain excess sodium and little nutrition value.
Proper nutrition during pregnancy is one of the best ways that you can start your baby off to a great start in life.