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Pregnancy Diet And Nutrition FAQs

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Are you experiencing the need to make pregnancy diet changes? Overcome pregnancy cravings and food aversions by sticking to a prenatal diet plan that will ensure your health and your baby’s!

RELATED: 7 Folic Acid Foods To Include In Your Pregnancy Diet

In this article:

  1. How Important Is Your Diet During Pregnancy?
  2. How Do You Create a Pregnancy Diet Plan?
  3. Does Your Diet Need to Change in Each Trimester?
  4. What Should You Eat During the First Trimester?
  5. What Should You Eat During the Second Trimester?
  6. What Should You Eat During the Third Trimester?
  7. What Vitamins and Minerals Are Important During Pregnancy?
  8. What Food Should You Avoid During Your Pregnancy?
  9. How Can You Avoid Food Poisoning During Pregnancy?
  10. How Much Weight Should You Gain During Your Pregnancy?

Everything You Need to Know About Eating for Two

1. How Important Is Your Diet During Pregnancy?

Your body is bound to go through all sorts of changes throughout your pregnancy as it carries your baby. Your diet plays a vital role in your body’s ability to do this as well as to create a safe place for your baby to grow.

Studies show that the quality of a mom’s pregnancy diet is linked to the baby’s brain development, birth weight, and certain birth defects. It’s important to make sure you and your baby are getting the right amount of nutrients throughout the pregnancy.

If you were dieting to lose weight before you got pregnant, it is probably time to shelve that until you give birth. Keep in mind that you’ll need approximately 300 extra calories each day to keep up with your rapidly growing baby.

2. How Do You Create a Pregnancy Diet Plan?

There are different resources you can use to help develop your pregnancy diet plan. Each expectant mom’s pregnancy diet plan will vary because of her weight, height, and medical history.

Generally, a healthy and balanced diet should contain something from each food group. The five main food groups are:

  • Fruits – Fruits can be served fresh or made into juice.
  • Vegetables – Choose from leafy greens, roots, marrows, or cruciferous (ex: Brussels sprouts or broccoli) veggies.
  • Grains – Bread, pasta, and oatmeal are examples of grains.
  • Protein – Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds are great sources of protein.
  • Dairy – Milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are all dairy products.

The amount of each food group serving depends on your weight and dietary requirements. It’s best to consult your health care provider before making any drastic changes to your diet.

In between the morning sickness and pregnancy cravings, you may find it challenging at first to maintain a balanced and healthy pregnancy diet. Try to make a habit of including a small amount from each food group in your meals on a daily basis.

3. Does Your Diet Need to Change in Each Trimester?

Each trimester comes with a unique set of challenges for a pregnant mama. At the same time, the baby also develops in certain ways in each trimester.

While a healthy and well-balanced diet is recommended throughout the pregnancy, there may be a few ways to optimize your diet to respond to your needs and your baby’s needs during each trimester.

As your pregnancy progresses, it’s important to see your health care provider regularly so they can keep track of you and your baby. Health care providers may make some dietary recommendations based on the expectant mom’s medical history, weight, and blood pressure.

4. What Should You Eat During the First Trimester?

Pregnant woman having healthy breakfast at home | Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition FAQs
A pregnant woman eats a healthy breakfast of fruits, croissants, and orange juice.

The first trimester, or the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, is often the most difficult. The baby grows at an amazing rate, and your body is working double time to keep up with all the changes.

Early on in your pregnancy, you may start feeling tired because your body is working hard to make extra blood for you and your baby. That’s why it’s important to introduce foods high in iron in your diet as early as the first few weeks of your pregnancy.

Iron helps your body produce more blood that will carry oxygen to your tissues and organs. Here are some examples of iron-rich foods:

  • Tofu
  • Cashews
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-grain bread

Your baby’s nervous system is rapidly developing during the first trimester, so you may want to help things along by adding folate-rich dishes into your diet. Folate is a form of B-vitamin that helps cells divide to make DNA.

Here are a few natural sources of folate:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Citrus fruits
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Beans

Morning sickness and nausea are common early symptoms of pregnancy that peak during the first trimester. If you’re experiencing a few food aversions, it’s best to listen to your body and avoid food that makes you feel sick.

Instead, try eating small meals throughout the day. Don’t forget to drink water regularly to avoid dehydration.

5. What Should You Eat During the Second Trimester?

The second trimester is when most moms bounce back if they had a rough start. At this point, the morning sickness tends to ease up, hormone levels begin to stabilize, and moms generally report getting their energy back.

That doesn’t mean nothing’s happening though! You’ll soon start to feel all those wonderful kicks and tumbles because your baby’s organs and bones are developing during the second trimester.

To help your baby grow strong, try including more calcium in your diet. Here are some yummy sources of calcium:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Almonds
  • Sardines
  • Seeds

Omega-3 fatty acids are also essential to your baby’s brain development. Natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in the oil of fatty fishes like salmon and herring, but you can also find them in nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseeds.

Hopefully, by the time you hit the second trimester, you won’t have any food aversions anymore and it’ll be easier to maintain a balanced diet.

6. What Should You Eat During the Third Trimester?

Once you reach week 28, you’re officially in the home stretch — the third trimester! With about three months left in the pregnancy, many moms begin to feel sluggish and fatigued again.

This time around though, the reason for your lack of energy is quite obvious — your baby’s getting big! In preparation for childbirth, your baby will begin putting on weight quickly at around week 31 until the end of your pregnancy.

Try adding protein-rich food in your diet to give you that much-needed energy boost in the third trimester. Lean meat, poultry, fish, soy products, beans, and nuts are great sources of protein.

RELATED: 21 Foods To Avoid While Pregnant

7. What Vitamins and Minerals Are Important During Pregnancy?

A pregnant woman holding vitamins | Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition FAQs
A pregnant woman takes supplements and vitamins.

Ideally, your main source of vitamins and minerals should come from your diet, but most health care providers will still prescribe certain supplements to help fill in some unintentional nutritional gaps.

Prenatal supplements will contain a range of vitamins and minerals, but many health care providers will single out folic acid, calcium, and iron.

Folic acid is so important for developing babies that it is even prescribed for women who are trying to get pregnant. It helps prevent neural tube defects that can develop during the first 28 days of the pregnancy.

What is a neural tube defect? These are birth defects that affect the baby’s brain or spinal cord.

Expectant moms are at risk for bone density loss because the baby also uses their calcium supply to grow bones. That’s why it’s important for them to take a calcium supplement to prevent this.

Pregnant women need approximately two times more iron compared to non-pregnant women. While there are many natural sources of iron, many health care practitioners prescribe it as a separate supplement, especially if the expectant mom has a history of anemia.

8. What Food Should You Avoid During Your Pregnancy?

The regular symptoms of pregnancy can be hard enough to deal with, you don’t want to risk food poisoning or something worse. Here are some things you should avoid eating while pregnant:

  • Raw or undercooked eggs
  • Soft cheeses made with mold (ex: camembert or goat cheese)
  • Cheeses with blue veins (ex: blue cheese)
  • Unpasteurized milk and other dairy products
  • Raw or undercooked meats
  • Cold or unheated cold cuts, luncheon meat, pate, and hot dogs
  • Refrigerated meat spreads
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw or undercooked seafood

Aside from food poisoning, eating any of the food listed above may also cause listeriosis.

What is listeriosis? It is a food-borne illness that pregnant women are at higher risk for. When left untreated, it can cause flu-like symptoms, miscarriages, stillbirths, or premature deliveries.

While fish may be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, it also may be a source of something unwanted—mercury. Mercury is a heavy metal chemical found in our oceans due to water pollution.

Mercury is linked to certain birth defects, so it’s best to avoid fishes that have high levels of mercury. Fishes that retain higher mercury levels are mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, swordfish, shark, and tuna.

9. How Can You Avoid Food Poisoning During Pregnancy?

Pregnant woman cooking egg in the kitchen | Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition FAQs
A pregnant woman cooks eggs in the kitchen.

Here are a few ways you can avoid food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands with soap before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating or cooking.
  • Thaw your food in the refrigerator and cook them right away.
  • Don’t re-freeze thawed food.
  • Cook your food thoroughly.
  • Wash knives, countertops, and cutting boards thoroughly after they make contact with raw food.
  • Be extra careful when eating out. Read restaurant reviews when in doubt.

If you’re traveling while you’re pregnant and you’re unsure of the quality of the food, opt for hot foods or pack dry packaged foods. If you’re not sure about the quality of the tap water, choose bottled or canned drinks instead.

10. How Much Weight Should You Gain During Your Pregnancy?

Weight gain is inevitable during your pregnancy, but how much weight is too much weight?

It all depends on your body mass index (BMI) before you were pregnant. If your BMI is within the normal range, then it’s normal to gain 25-35 pounds during your pregnancy.

If you were considered underweight before you became pregnant, your health care provider may recommend more weight gain. On the other hand, if you were overweight before you got pregnant, then your doctor may recommend less weight gain.

It’s important to remember that the weight gain doesn’t happen overnight. Generally, women gain about 2-4 pounds during the first trimester and about a pound each week during the second and third trimesters.

 

Check out this video about pregnancy diet tips from Loyola Medicine:

Eating for two can seem like fun, but it’s also a lot of responsibility! You’re not only eating for yourself now. Everything you take in may have an impact on your baby, too.

If you’re unsure about something, talk to your health care provider about it, and don’t forget to talk to them before you make any major changes in your pregnancy diet.

While it may seem hard to give up some of your favorite foods during your pregnancy, it’ll be all be worth it once you’re holding your healthy baby in your arms.

How has your pregnancy diet changed so far? Do share with us your experience in the comments section. 

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