You guys! I heard some pretty exciting news last week!One of my most favorite people in the whole world is expecting a sweet little sprout in her life and I couldn’t be happier for her. She was asking me some questions about what she should be eating, not eating, etc., which got me thinking…. I should do a post on prenatal nutrition! You know, nurturing your little sprout when they are more like a seed… in your belly. Really, providing your kiddo with a healthy diet begins before they are even around (i.e. before you even get pregnant) and is sooo important as they are growing (particularly inside your belly). So let’s just talk about some prenatal nutrition tips that will hopefully be helpful whether you’re on your first kid or your fifth.
You’re pregnant! Congratulations! You get to eat for 2 for the next 9 months right?! Twice the french fries! Twice the chocolate cake! WRONG! This is a pretty common misconception and if you want to save yourself a lot of grief trying to lose weight AFTER giving birth, don’t do it. In fact, the average person needs ZERO additional calories during the first trimester. So, sorry to say, if you’re in your first 12 weeks of pregnancy, no extra chocolate cake for you. During the second and third trimester you need about 300 extra calories per day to help that baby grow. (To estimate your total calorie needs, take your weight (in pounds) and divide that by 2.2. Multiply that by 30 and add 300. Trust me, this is a legitimate scientific calculation. I can’t make this stuff up…)
What does 300 calories look like? Unfortunately for a starving pregnant woman, not much. Adding 300 calories to your diet is basically the same as adding an extra snack. Here are some ideas:
- a medium banana/apple and 2 Tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 ½ cups lowfat cottage cheese and 1 cup strawberries
- ½ cup of trail mix
- about 15 crackers and 1 ounce of cheese;
- ½ smashed avocado on 1 slice whole wheat bread
- 1 container greek yogurt with ⅓ cup granola
I know these snacks don’t seem like much, but it’s just the right amount your little sprouting seed needs for those growth spurts in your belly.
Pregnant women need more protein. I mean, you’re growing a little human! They need muscles too! However, don’t start eating 16 ounce sirloins at every meal or guzzling protein shakes; too much protein can be just as detrimental to your baby as not enough protein. Think moderation. The current recommendation for protein during pregnancy is between 75-100 grams/day (up to 25 grams more than for a non-pregnant woman). Good sources of protein include meats, chicken, fish, eggs, beans (not the green garden variety), tofu, quinoa, and dairy.
Yes, fat is an important part of your diet to help your little seed grow. Obviously, some fats are better than others and we want to get plenty of essential fatty acids (omega-3 [EPA and DHA] and omega-6) to help that little brain grow. Sources include fish (see food safety below), flaxseed, canola, soybean and vegetable oils. Not a fan of fish? Be sure to get them in your prenatal (see below). Here’s to hoping brain development in the womb leads to college scholarships outside the womb!
Vitamins and Minerals
Two words: prenatal vitamin (preferably one with DHA/EPA, omega-3, fish oils…one of those words on it or in the ingredients) I like this one (I usually buy it at Smith’s or a Kroger store on sale BOGO), but there are tons on the market and you can even get a prescription for one from your doctor. Start taking a prenatal even before you get pregnant. Prenatals have all kinds of good stuff, particularly folate. Folate is crucial during the first trimester, even the first week of pregnancy, for your little seed to develop into a little sprout. By the time you even realize you are pregnant it might be too late, so get your folate ASAP.
One mineral that probably is not in your prenatal is iron. Iron is necessary for oxygen transport and DNA synthesis. The requirements increase during pregnancy to make sure your little sprout is getting oxygen and synthesizing DNA too (kind of a big deal when you’re growing a whole body from one little cell…). You may need to start iron supplementation during your second trimester (the recommendation is 27 mg/day). If you aren’t so interested in adding another supplement to the routine, up your intake of iron-rich foods including: meat, chicken, fish, beans, lentils, green veggies, and fortified cereals.
Food safety is as important before birth for your little seed as it is after for your little sprout. Fish are a great source of protein and healthy fats (like we already discussed) but beware of fish high in mercury, which crosses the placental barrier and can damage your little seeds nervous system. Pregnant women should avoid shark, swordfish, mackerel, and tilefish. Canned tuna is a great option, but go for the light variety as albacore can contain more mercury.
Another food safety concern is listeria. Getting listeria during pregnancy can be devastating to your little one, even causing spontaneous abortion or stillbirth. Listeria is killed at high temperatures so if eating hot dogs or lunch meats, be sure to heat until the meat is steaming. Avoid any cheese that is not made with pasteurized milk (may include feta, brie, queso blanco, bleu cheese, and camembert). Avoid raw seafood and unpasteurized milk, eggs, or juice.
I hope these tips will make you feel better about nourishing your little one as they are growing inside. Think of it this way,this is pretty much the most control you will ever have over their diet so make it count. As you probably know, once they are in the real world…things may start to get messy!
*The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any diet or treatment decisions.