What is the relation between nutrition and pregnancy? A balanced diet is vital to your health at every stage of your life. Young or old, healthy eating is great for you. It allows you to do the things you want at your maximum level. However, a balanced diet is even more crucial for pregnant women like you because you’re eating for two.
As you go along your nine-month journey, remember this: pregnancy & nutrition are partners. Here’s what you need to know:
Why Healthy Eating is Integral to Pregnancy
Healthy eating is a must for pregnant women to ensure their pregnancy proceeds safely. Your body undergoes so many changes, and you literally have to support another living being inside you. To accommodate these changes, you need to keep your consumption of key nutrients in check. You might want to grab a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting or continue reading this article.
Your body does wonders when it develops the life inside you. To support that process and promote a healthy pregnancy, you need to eat the right foods and avoid bad habits. Keeping track of your prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements intake is an integral aspect of women’s health to protect you and your baby.
We know you’re strong. Just being able to live your life is already proof of how capable and resilient you and your body are. However, pregnancy is challenging, and the complications you may face are high risk. You should take your diet and eating habits seriously when you’re pregnant and, afterward, when you’re lactating.
Vitamins and Minerals for Healthy Eating and Weight Gain
For a healthy pregnancy, you need to monitor your intake of key nutrients that will help support your body and your baby. A balanced and healthy diet is essential, and you can consult with your health care provider to know what you should eat. Remember that pregnant women undergo highly complex changes, and you need the right dosage of prenatal vitamin and mineral supplements to support you.
When deciding on what nutrients you should prioritize, you should be deliberate. Some vitamins and minerals are more vital than others, especially when it comes to pregnant women. To know what you need, you should read, research, and talk to your health care provider to monitor your nutrition during pregnancy.
To help you, we’ve listed down some of the key nutrients you should include in your pregnancy diet. But keep in mind that this is just a guide. It would still be best to consult with your health care provider to know how much of these nutrients you need. They can also test you for vitamin and mineral deficiency and help you adjust your diet and supplement intake accordingly.
Before we proceed: follow your health care provider’s instructions on supplement doses. Taking too much of these can cause complications, so it’s best to take only what you need. The same goes for your daily prenatal vitamin intake.
Folate and Folic Acid
Folate is also known as vitamin B9, and folic acid is its synthetic form. This vitamin can help lower your baby’s chances of developing neural tube defects or brain and spinal cord problems. Folic acid supplementation can also help prevent premature birth and deliver a low birth weight baby. According tot he American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ‘Folic acid may help prevent major birth defects of the fetus’s brain and spine called ‘neural tube defects’ (NTDS).”
You can get folic acid from balanced diet staples such as:
- Citrus fruits
- Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach
- Dried beans
- Fortified foods like cereals
There are many B vitamin types including:
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
They are all key nutrients pregnant women should get. B vitamin is responsible for giving you and your baby energy to help them develop. They also help your body form red blood cells needed to keep many of your body functions up and running. Whole grains are a source of B vitamins.
Vitamin C can help your baby develop a healthy immune system and strong bones and muscles. It also promotes healthy gums and teeth and aids the body in absorbing iron. You can get vitamin C from:
- Citrus fruits and juices like orange juice
- Vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes
Vitamin D is essential in developing your baby’s bones and teeth by working with calcium. It’s also responsible for promoting healthy skin and eyesight.
Unlike the other vitamins and minerals here, you can get vitamin D from sun exposure. However, you can also get it from:
- Fortified foods
- Fatty fish
- Vitamin D supplement
Iron is one of the main driving factors for oxygen delivery. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin in the red blood cells. It’s responsible for supplying oxygen to your body and your baby.
Pregnant women need significantly more than the amount of iron that other people need, and having not enough iron could lead to iron deficiency anemia. That could result in premature birth and delivering a low birth weight baby.
You can get enough iron from lean red meat. You can also try to eat iron-rich foods like poultry, fish, or iron-fortified cereals. If you don’t get enough of the mineral from eating, your doctor may recommend taking iron supplements.
Like already-born humans, your baby needs protein while you haven’t given birth yet. It’s one of the important nutrients necessary for your baby’s growth. According to the American Pregnancy Association, ” Protein positively affects the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps your breast and uterine tissue to grow during pregnancy, and it plays a role in your increasing blood supply.” You can get it from:
- Lean red meat
Calcium is essential in developing your baby’s bones and teeth. It can also help reduce your chances of getting preeclampsia — a condition that elevates your blood pressure and stresses your organs.
You can get calcium from:
- Dairy foods
- Fortified milk
- Dark green leafy vegetables like kale
Choline is a nutrient that can help your baby’s brain development and prevent congenital disabilities. Your body already produces it, but it doesn’t make enough to give you the recommended amount.
You can get choline from:
- Meat like chicken and beef
- Soy products
Most prenatal vitamin pills don’t have choline, so you have to make sure you get it from other sources.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids can also help you avoid developing preeclampsia, giving premature birth, and delivering a low birth weight baby. They’re also crucial for your baby’s brain development.
Some sources of omega-3s are:
- Kidney beans
Of course, you can get it from many kinds of fish too. Although, pregnant women should avoid raw tuna and don’t eat bigeye tuna, including other tuna with high mercury levels.
Dos and Don’ts in Nutrition Pregnancy
You should eat a balanced diet consisting of foods from different food groups as a rule of thumb. The same goes for pregnant women, only that you have to be more aware of what and how much you eat.
With that said, not all food is created equal when we talk about pregnancy. You have to prioritize the healthier options, like dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, fatty fish, and lean red meat. You can also eat other healthy fats.
Your pregnancy diet should include healthy foods. Pregnant women have to be sensitive to nutritional status and needs. Consider opting for healthy snacks, fortified foods, and nutritious meals.
You can also take your daily prenatal vitamin to ensure you get the required nutrition during pregnancy. You may also want to consider exercising as it can give you and your baby a lot of benefits!
When you’re pregnant, you don’t just live for yourself anymore. Everything you do affects your baby too. You have to be aware, careful, and purposeful when making decisions, even for something as simple as a snack. For example, unpasteurized dairy foods should be avoided as these may contain Listeria bacteria.
After all, your choices can affect your baby’s growth. Consider sticking to a pregnancy diet recommended by your health care provider. At least for now, leave unhealthy food behind—no more saturated fats, too much sugar, and processed food.
Forgo bad habits—don’t smoke and drink alcohol too. They can increase your risk of giving premature birth or having a baby with low birth weight. They can also cause other congenital disabilities, health problems, and diseases. An article from the University of California states that, ‘Alcohol has been shown to negatively affect a baby’s growth and development,’ so avoid it as much as you can.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
We’ve been raised in a culture that tells us to watch our weight. For women, it has always been a numbers game. We’re expected to always stay within what’s considered an acceptable normal weight range. But keep in mind that your weight does not define you and that no weight is bad. All you have to do is be accountable for your health, lifestyle, and eating habits.
If we’re constantly told the outdated sentiment that weight gain is wrong, it’s entirely different for pregnant women. You’re expected to observe healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Your health care provider can help you determine how much weight you need to gain along your nine-month journey.
They can also tell you how much you need to eat and how many extra calories you should consume. However, your progress needs to be healthy. A deficient or excessive weight gain during pregnancy can spell problems for you and your baby because your body doesn’t get the proper nutrition.
In addition, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you should binge and eat for two people. If you’re within the normal healthy weight range, you only need about 300 surplus calories daily.
Summary: Healthy Diet and Nutrition During Pregnancy
A balanced diet is essential to a healthy pregnancy. You have to monitor your intake of important nutrients while making healthy food choices. You need to have enough of the following as recommended by your doctor:
- Folic acid
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, and D
You can get these from whole grains, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, protein foods, iron-rich foods, and healthy fats and oils. A prenatal supplement like iron supplements can also be your source.
In addition, you have to monitor your daily prenatal vitamin intake, as prescribed by health professionals. Don’t forget your mineral supplements, as they can provide the nutrients you don’t get enough of from food.
Follow the directions of health professionals about your recommended weight gain too. Don’t be afraid of those extra calories because they’re good for you and your baby!
Your food guidelines may be confusing at times, but you have to trust the process and health professionals. A healthy diet is one of the cornerstones of healthy living, and it can help you decrease your chances of encountering complications. Refrain from the no-no’s, too — don’t drink alcohol, stop smoking, and avoid food groups that aren’t healthy.
Pregnant women should also continue to make these conscious choices when they become breastfeeding women. Things may get tough along the way. That’s just the truth of pregnancy, as extraordinary and as complex as it is.
Remember that you’re doing this for your baby and yourself when that happens. Have magical nutrition and pregnancy, future mom!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)