You receive the joyous news that you’re going to have a baby. There’s so much to think about, but at the top of your list is making sure you eat healthy foods that will nourish your body and your little one. Your doctor will typically recommend a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement and he might talk to you about your diet. But let’s face it—you are in charge of what goes into your mouth at meal times.
Even though nutrient needs are high at this time, your calorie intake doesn’t change much, according to Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of “Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy.” There are steps you can take to ensure that your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are fulfilling your increased nutritional needs.
Include Super Foods
Salmon or foods fortified with algal—sustainable DHA—should be included in the diet of a mommy-to-be. This omega-3 is critical for brain and vision development, says Somer. The body can’t make it, so it must come from the diet. Incorporate at least two servings of salmon a week into your meal plan or at least 220 mg of DHA per day. Vegetarians won't have good dietary sources of the omega-3 DHA, so they should add supplements for these nutrients.
When you shop for meals, focus on the periphery of the grocery store where you’ll find produce, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish and whole-grain bakery products. Your daily menu should include three glasses of milk or yogurt, two iron-rich meats, chicken or fish, eight colorful fruits and veggies and five or more whole grains, says Somer. Drink plenty of water.
Nutrient needs are high during pregnancy, but calorie needs are not, so every bite must count, warns Somer. Avoid junk food, refined grains, processed foods, fast foods and sweets. Now is the time to really focus on real, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, nuts and legumes. There’s no room for cheating. Don’t top your meal off with a glass of wine. In addition to the fact that it's empty calories, even moderate alcohol can cause developmental problems for your baby.
It’s not always easy to make healthy choices when eating meals out with friends and family. Maricruz Badia, life coach and co-founder of Ginger-Moon, which promotes healing foods for the childbearing years, recommends choosing salads. Many restaurants have a wide assortment of choices offered on salad bars. Take the opportunity to load up on leafy greens such as spinach and kale that provide the benefit of iron. Healthy toppings such as feta cheese, tuna or egg are usually available and will add protein. Toss on some raisins and dried cranberries for fiber and antioxidants. Stay away from creamy dressings and choose lemon, balsamic vinegar, apple cider and olive oil when available, recommends Badia.
Women who are not into eating salads or green leafy vegetables can make smoothies by blending greens with frozen fruits and 100-percent juices low in sugar. Badia is expecting her second child and drinks a green smoothie every morning made of kale, celery, broccoli, frozen pineapples, green apples, orange juice and ginger.
During the first trimester, Badia advises pregnant women to consider meals and dishes rich in folate. This will aid in the development of a healthy nervous system for the baby.
Folate-rich foods to incorporate in meals include beans, avocado, beets, cabbage, eggs, banana, broccoli and spinach. It is also important to have a rich source of iron since, at this stage, the blood volume in a pregnant woman's body increases. Iron rich foods including beef or chicken liver, chicken, beef, tofu, pumpkin seeds, dried apricot and broccoli should be considered in your daily meal plan.
Choose My Plate
Every woman has individual meal requirements during pregnancy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed a Choose My Plate food guide called “Daily Food Plan for Moms.” Use this guide to help you put together breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack choices for the day. Input vital statistics and your meal plan changes as you progress toward your delivery date. The food plan is based on your weight, height, stage of pregnancy and activity level. It provides recommended serving amounts of grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein and oils. There is a suggested list of foods, as well, so you can plan your maternity meals around these items.