Healthy Eating = Healthy Pregnancy!

Congratulations! Before you know it, you will be playing with tiny feet and hands. This is the time to take care of yourself, eat healthy and eat right! Emphasis on nutrients like calcium, protein, folic acid, iron becomes most important, as they aid in formation of bones, teeth, brain, neurological development and organs of the fetus without deformities. So healthy foods = healthy baby!





Calories and weight gain: Normal weight women would require about +300calories/day in the later trimesters. Choose foods that are low in “empty calories”- the calories from added sugars and solid fats in foods like soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, cheese, whole milk, and fatty meats. Look for choices that are low-fat, fat-free, unsweetened, or with no added-sugars.  Recommended weight gain during 1st trimester is 1 to 4 pounds total and 2 to 4 pounds per month during the 4th to 9th months (second and third trimesters).

Alcohol consumption: Pregnant women should avoid alcoholic beverages.  Even moderate drinking during pregnancy could cause behavioral or developmental problems for your baby. Heavy drinking during pregnancy can result in malformation and mental retardation.

Foods to Avoid or Consume with caution:  Because pregnancy affects your immune system, you and your unborn baby are more susceptible to the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause foodborne illness. Avoid soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, including Brie, Feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, and queso fresco as they may contain E.coli or Listeria.  Instead, eat hard cheese like cheddar and swiss that are made from pasteurized milk. Avoid fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish (golden or white snapper) as they contain high level of mercury. Good alternatives include shrimp, salmon, pollock, and catfish.  Aim to consume about 12 oz of fish/week, ensuring they are well cooked.

Supplements: Not all herbal supplements are created equal and some have the potential to negatively affect your baby. Vitamins and supplements do NOT replace consuming healthy foods. Excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals have shown detrimental effects on a fetus. For example, excess vitamin A can cause birth defects. The recommended amount for folic acid is 600ug/day, vitamin A is 2,565 international units (IU)/day and iron is 27mg/day, so check your supplement bottles!

Water: The Institute of Medicine recommends about 10 cups (2.3 liters) of fluids a day during pregnancy. Water, juices, coffee, tea and soft drinks all contribute to your daily fluid needs. Keep in mind, however, that some drinks are high in sugar and too much of these high sugar beverages could lead to weight gain beyond your monthly goals. Due to its ability to cross the placenta, your health care provider might also recommend limiting the amount of caffeine in your diet to less than 200 milligrams a day during pregnancy to prevent potentially negative effects on your growing baby. If you avoid milk because you are lactose intolerant, the most reliable way to get the health benefits of milk is to select lactose-free milk and milk products or calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage).

Congratulations and happy healthy eating!

By Tejal Pathak, MS, RD, LD

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