There are times in life when good nutrition is crucial, and pregnancy is one of those times. You are literally feeding another human life, and what you put—or don't put—into your body affects the growth and development of that child.
Gaining the proper amount of weight is key not only for the health of the baby but also for the health of the mother. Gaining enough weight will assist in preventing low birth weight; gaining too much can increase the risk of gestational diabetes and obesity for the mother.
Pregnancy is not a time for dieting, but you really shouldn't be eating for two either! When you do the math, it's more like eating for 1.12 people. Follow your appetite, and eat when you are truly hungry to get the extra calories. If you listen to your body, it will tell you how much it needs. Make sure you attend all of your prenatal doctor visits so that he or she can monitor your weight to ensure the proper gain.
The need for many vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, and certain fats increases during pregnancy. Choose wisely and fill up on nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables for those extra calories.
Pregnant women should take a prenatal multivitamin to help ensure that they are meeting many of their nutrient needs. Don't rely completely on a vitamin—you still need to eat nutritious foods to make up the rest.
Many women complain about constipation during pregnancy. If this is a concern, increase your fiber and fluid to create more bulk and keep things moving through the digestive tract. If you are having trouble with nausea and vomiting and it is preventing you from staying properly hydrated or nourished, check with your doctor for advice.
During pregnancy it is extra important to be vigilant about food safety. Adult bodies have had time to build up immunity to many food-borne pathogens, but a developing baby is susceptible. Follow these tips:
- Eat cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Don't consume perishable foods that have been sitting at room temperature.
- Heat leftovers until they are steaming hot.
- Cook all meats to their proper temperatures. Use a food thermometer to be sure.
- Keep a thermometer in your refrigerator to make sure it is 40 degrees or cooler.
- Avoid all unpasteurized milk, raw meats, fish, and seafood, and cook eggs until the yolks are firm.
- Avoid eating high-mercury fish and limit intake of tuna to less than 12 ounces weekly.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
- Watch dates on food and don't eat foods past their expiration date.
Avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Caffeine is safe in moderate doses; one to two caffeinated beverages will keep you below the recommended limit of 300 mg per day.
With a little bit of extra care and attention to your diet, you will provide the proper nutrition to your baby and yourself so that everyone remains healthy.