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Nutrition During Pregnancy: A Few Key Tips

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If you’re already a mom, currently pregnant, or trying to conceive I’m sure you’re aware of the surplus of information online regarding nutrition during pregnancy. There is so much out there and it can get a little overwhelming (speaking from my own experience as I’m entering the third trimester). That’s why I thought it would be important to share a few tips to focus on when it comes to nutrition during pregnancy. It is also important to remember that everyone’s experience is different, so feel free to take what you need and leave what you don’t.

#1. Important Nutrients During Pregnancy

Of course, all nutrients are important and it is recommended to take your prenatal vitamin daily, but the table below highlights a few key nutrients during pregnancy and the why behind them.

Nutrient
Purpose
Food Sources
Folic Acid
Helps with preventing the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine
Fortified cereals, enriched bread products, and pasta, dark leafy greens, peanuts
Iron
Blood volume significantly increases during pregnancy- iron helps with the production of hemoglobin and delivering oxygen to your fetus
Red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals
*pair these foods with a source of vitamin C for optimal absorption
Calcium
For mom- keep your teeth and bones strong
For baby -promotes the development of strong teeth and bones
Milk, cheese yogurt, dark leafy greens, almonds, edamame, fortified cereals, and beverages
Vitamin D
For mom- helps with the absorption of calcium, supports immunity
For baby-promote strong bones, teeth, eyesight, and skin
Fortified milk, salmon, egg yolk, mushrooms, shrimp, sardines, sunlight
Choline
Supports development of baby’s brain and spinal cord
Milk, eggs, beef, brussels sprouts, chicken, salmon, quinoa, soy products, peanuts
Vitamin C
For mom- tissue and wound healing, aids in the absorption of iron, supports immunity
For baby- supports the development of teeth and bones
Citrus fruit, broccoli, tomatoes, berries

#2. Getting Through the First Trimester

The first trimester is known to be quite difficult. It’s when morning sickness peaks and food aversions are common, making it almost impossible to focus on nutrition goals. My number one tip is to just do what you can with food- eat what sounds good to you at the time. Try not to feel guilty if you are not packing in all the fruits and vegetables during these first few weeks. Typically, the morning sickness symptoms will resolve as you go into the second trimester and at this time you can prioritize more balanced nutrition!

Tips for the first trimester:

  • Have some crackers or a protein drink at your bedside to drink upon waking, before getting out of bed.
  • Eat small meals/snacks every 2-3 hours. The key is to make sure you are eating frequently so nausea doesn’t get out of control.
  • Keep snacks on hand at all times- in your purse, car, at work, etc.
  • These foods may be better tolerated: toast, noodles, pancakes, popsicles, dry cereal, mashed potatoes, ginger smoothies, banana, applesauce
  • Handling food aversions: try legumes, beans, nuts, nut butters, seeds, eggs for protein; incorporate fruit and veggies into smoothies or try dried fruit instead.
  • Vitamin B6 is known to help reduce nausea. Try supplementing with B6 or get more B6 in your diet through food sources such as chickpeas or hummus.

#3. Staying Hydrated

Fluid needs increase during pregnancy due to the increase in blood volume and the formation of amniotic fluid. Recommended fluid intake during pregnancy is about 60-90 ounces per day (or about 8-12 cups). Plain water can start to get boring after a while so here are a few ways to jazz it up:

  • Add fruit to your water (I like to infuse my water with lemon, orange, and mint!)
  • Try sparkling water
  • Eat fruits and veggies with high water content- watermelon, cucumber, summer squash, strawberries, peaches, tomatoes
  • Make fruit smoothies! These are especially refreshing in the summer months.
  • Broths and soups- these may be better tolerated with nausea
  • Get a new water bottle! I like this one.

#4. Foods to Limit/Avoid During Pregnancy

Your immune system is compromised during pregnancy and there are some foods that can be harmful to the baby, therefore, it is important to pay close attention to our food choices during pregnancy.

  • Avoid raw or uncooked meats, fish, poultry, and eggs
  • Avoid fish with high mercury levels- swordfish, shark, mackerel. Limit shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish to no more than 12 ounces per week.
  • Heat hot dogs, deli meats, and cold cuts until they are steaming hot
  • Ensure all milk dairy products are pasteurized or made with pasteurized milk
  • Limit caffeine to 200mg per day
  • Ask your doctor before drinking herbal teas or taking herbal supplements
  • Avoid alcohol altogether- there is no safe recommended amount during pregnancy.

These are a few general tips for nutrition during pregnancy. It is important to remember that each woman has their own unique experience and that each pregnancy is different. Do what works for your body and your lifestyle and enjoy the nine beautiful months of growing your baby. As always- refer to your doctor any specific questions or concerns during your pregnancy. And if you’d like more nutritional guidance, reach out and schedule with one of our experienced dietitians- we’re here to help. You got this, mama!

Sources:

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition During Pregnancy: What vitamins and minerals do I need during pregnancy? https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/nutrition-during-pregnancy. Accessed on: June 16, 2021.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Nutrition Care Manual. Pregnancy Nutrition Therapy. https://www.nutritioncaremanual.org/client_ed.cfm?ncm_client_ed_id=8&showtbar=1. Accessed on: June 17, 2021.

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