A healthy, well-balanced diet is important at every stage of life, but for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, eating right is critical to the health of both mother and baby. While some nutrition tips, like always eating breakfast, are recommended for everyone, mothers-to-be should be conscious of a number of mom-specific healthy eating guidelines.
As an expecting mother, you’re now eating for two but that doesn’t mean you should double your caloric intake. Instead, normal weight women should eat an extra 300 calories each day during the last six months of pregnancy. Since the foods mothers eat are the main source of nutrients for their babies during pregnancy, pregnant women should stick to healthy meal plans with foods high in fiber and whole grains. In maintaining a healthy diet and getting the CDC-recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, women who have normal weight pre-pregnancy BMI should gain between 25 and 35 pounds over the course of pregnancy.
A healthy pregnancy consists of more than simply maintaining a well-balanced diet and exercising. Expectant moms need the right amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals, and while a nutrient-dense diet will provide many of these essential nutrients, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggests that most women should also take supplements to ensure the best outcome for both the mother and the baby. Women who are pregnant, hoping to become pregnant, and breastfeeding should talk with their OB about taking prenatal vitamins.
Consuming foods rich in iron, folic acid and vitamin C are vital to helping to prevent anemia in women and ensuring that babies are born healthy. Iron-rich foods, like meat, chicken, fish, eggs and enriched grains, help the developing baby receive sufficient levels of oxygen, but may not provide enough iron so an iron supplement may be recommended by your provider.
Folic acid is necessary before, during and after pregnancy. The CDC recommends that women who are able to get pregnant should take 400 mcg supplements of folic acid each day to prevent birth defects of the spine, brain, lip, palate and heart. Dark green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli, dried beans, enriched grains, and most nuts and seeds are excellent food sources of folic acid.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy pregnancy, avoiding the wrong foods is as important as eating the right ones. Compared to the general population, pregnant women are ten times more likely to be infected by listeriosis, all illness caused by eating ready-to-eat meats, seafood, poultry and dairy products contaminated by bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. Therefore, ACOG reminds moms-to-be to give up high-risk foods, including hot dogs, lunch meats, raw milk, unpasteurized soft cheeses, and unwashed raw produce.
For more information, please consult your provider about which nutritional options are recommended for you.