Did you just get the exciting news about a new baby in your future? Or do you find yourself daydreaming about cribs and highchairs? If you recently became pregnant or are thinking about the possibility of a little one in your future, one very important start of a healthy pregnancy is a nutritious diet. With the added stress of preparing for a new baby, it’s important to give yourself every advantage for a healthy pregnancy. Believe me, I know! I am a dietetic intern nearing the end of my rotations, in the process of moving back to my small hometown in East Texas and am nine months pregnant with my first baby girl, Colbie. While it can be difficult to focus on healthy eating with all the distractions of a new pregnancy, the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices and effort.
Healthy eating during pregnancy has many benefits for both you and your baby. A nutritious diet helps ensure a healthy birth weight, proper brain development and reduced risk of some birth defects. What’s in it for you? Eating well reduces the chances of pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and anemia and speeds post-birth recovery, which will get you out of those maternity jeans and into your skinny jeans in no time!
So, what are the keys to healthy diet during pregnancy? First, don’t overdo it! Your body only needs an extra 300 calories a day to support your developing baby. That’s equivalent to two glasses of skim milk and a bowl of oatmeal. So, ditch the old "I’m eating for two" mantra and focus on a balanced diet with a few snacks in between meals to get your extra calories.
To achieve a balanced, healthy diet during pregnancy, eat a variety of foods such as grains, dairy, lean protein, fruits and vegetables. Strive to get 6 - 9 servings of breads, cereals, rice and pasta a day with most as whole grains, which provides you and your baby with calories and B vitamins for growth and development. Protein is another essential part of your pregnancy diet. Aim for 3 servings a day of lean protein: beef, pork, skinless chicken, fish, eggs and beans. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins A and C and potassium to help your baby grow so eat at least 5 servings a day with a variety of colors.
During your first trimester, your tastes may change due to the dreaded morning sickness. Experiment with new fruits and vegetables to see what works best for you. I found lemons to be my new favorite fruit during my first trimester and I had other friends who discovered fruit and veggies to be the only foods they found appealing during morning sickness. In addition, calcium is critical during pregnancy. Moms-to-be should consume 4 servings of low-fat dairy a day to meet the higher calcium needs of pregnancy. Cheeses, yogurt and milk are good sources of calcium and excellent snacks to get your extra calories. Finally, a prenatal vitamin is a good safety net to ensure you are getting all your vitamins and other nutrients each day. Following these steps can start you on the road to a healthy pregnancy. It takes effort but, without a doubt, it’s worth every bite.
Chelsea Lyles is a dietetic intern at Texas Woman’s University
who completed a community nutrition rotation with Neva Cochran in November.