While pregnant, it can be tough to know what foods are best eat, and what to avoid. Suddenly, you’re not just eating for yourself but for your growing child and have concerns about making the right choices.
Pregnant women are often hungrier, but it is important to eat foods that provide the right nutrients for a growing baby. This will aid with your child’s healthy development and help you ensure you stay in good health during pregnancy – and avoid excess weight gain. In fact, many of the common problems that arise during pregnancy are far less likely if you maintain a diet of healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
Eating Healthy Foods for a Healthy Pregnancy
At Virginia Beach OBGYN, we can suggest some healthy diet tips; in general, most health professionals agree that your body needs a higher dosage of nutrients including:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In many cases, prenatal vitamins provide some of the vital nutrients for growing baby, but this is not enough to ensure that your body provides all that is needed for your baby. Eating foods that are naturally rich in these nutrients will help you absorb more than is possible by taking supplements.
Folic Acid is one of the most important nutrients that your body needs during pregnancy. Folic acid helps with the development of your baby’s spinal cord and prevents neural tube defects which can lead to spina bifida (congenital defect of the spinal cord) or anencephaly (brain defects). Ensuring you have adequate folic acid is an essential to a baby’s development.
Foods that contain folic acid include leafy green vegetables such as spinach, citrus fruits, beans and legumes, rice, and avocados. Many dark green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli are also rich in folic acid. Sweet potatoes contain high amounts of folic acid. These are all great, versatile vegetables that provide many vital nutrients during pregnancy.
Because your body is producing extra blood for your baby during your pregnancy, it is important to eat iron-rich foods. Eating plenty of iron-rich foods can reduce symptoms such as feeling faint or dizzy and can reduce the feelings of exhaustion common amongst pregnant mothers.
Red meat, poultry, and fish are all high in iron, but there are a range of other foods that you can add to your diet that are high in iron. Eggs and tofu are sources of both protein and iron, and greens such as spinach and broccoli are good alternatives. Beans and lentils are also a great source of iron, and many breakfast cereals are enriched with iron.
Legumes such as beans and lentils are rich in both iron and folic acid, as well as protein. Legumes are some of the most nutritionally-dense foods and are both versatile and filling. This makes eating legumes a vital part of a healthy pregnancy diet.
While being vegetarian while pregnant can pose some challenges, those who choose to remain on a meat-free diet during pregnancy can benefit from consumption of large quantities of legumes. This is one way to ensure that your body is receiving all the nutrients that it needs with vegetables that can be used in the preparation of a variety of tasty dishes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the baby’s visual and cognitive development. In addition, a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids eaten during pregnancy is believed to reduce the possibility that the baby may develop allergies as an infant. Fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, but it is important to eat fish with that contains a lower mercury content, and limit consumption to no more than three times per week and avoid consuming more than six ounces of albacore tuna a week. Avocados and some nuts are high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
During pregnancy, it is crucial to increase your protein intake. For the baby’s development as well as for your own health, you need to consume high-protein foods. Protein is an essential component of cell development, and protein intake should be managed with care.
Foods high in protein include red meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, as well as dairy products. Many nuts and legumes provide high amounts of protein.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Because the foods you eat directly impact the health of the baby, consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is critical during pregnancy. You will need to consume a higher number of calories during your pregnancy, but this should include an increasing the quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables are easily incorporated into meals, but also make great snacks throughout the day and can help you feel full between meals. Rather than choosing processed foods or fast foods, turn to eating fresh fruits and vegetables. While this may require lifestyle changes and some self-discipline, you will feel better – and so will your baby.
Without calcium, the bones cannot develop properly. During pregnancy, for the baby’s bone development you want to consume many calcium-rich foods. While many people know that milk is high in calcium, there are a wide range of other foods that will help you reach the recommended calcium intake.
Oranges are a surprising source of calcium. For breakfast, a bowl of oatmeal helps to contribute to the needed daily calcium intake, along with fiber to keep your digestive system functioning as it should. Many dark, leafy green vegetables are high in calcium. Almonds, dates, and dried figs are all excellent sources of calcium, and good snacking foods.
Foods to Avoid
While we have covered many foods that contribute to a healthy pregnancy, it is also important to discuss the foods that should be avoided.
Fish that is high in mercury such as tuna, or consuming any raw fish or seafood, must be avoided during the term of your pregnancy. Mercury is a toxin that can impact the nervous system and the kidneys and can lead to potential problems in a baby’s development. Raw fish can lead to infections or parasites and should be strictly avoided.
For similar reasons, pregnant women should avoid unpasteurized dairy products. Finally, ensure that you avoid highly-processed foods or junk food. These foods are laden with sodium, calories, and unhealthy fats. A diet of fresh vegetables and fruits, healthy protein and fiber is far superior, and has the added benefit of making you feel better, and promotes better health for mother and growing baby.