Almost everybody knows that keeping a pregnancy diet is vital to foster a healthy baby's development.
However, it isn't that obvious to what extent it can prevent you both from having many complications during these 9 months and in the future as well. Scratching the surface, a healthy pregnancy diet has countless benefits for your little one, since it can keep him from being born underweight and can potentially reduce the risk of birth anomalies, such as neural tube defects. Also, eating well can definitely boost his brain's development, and it may even make him more open to trying certain foods when growing up!
At the same time, if you follow a pregnancy diet, you'll be less likely to suffer from gestational conditions like anemia, diabetes and preeclampsia, while it can help you reduce unpleasant symptoms, such as morning sickness and heartburn. On top of that, studies have shown that making healthy choices 'at the table' can keep you from an overdue labour, as well as it can speed postpartum recovery.
You’re probably eager to know what to eat during pregnancy. What's on the 'menu'? Let's find out!
Your pregnancy diet: A rich selection of foods
Once you know that you are expecting a baby, you may have to change your mentality about the way you eat. Doctors recommend having five small meals throughout the day, instead of three big portions, and you should make sure that these provide you with the necessary nutrients for both you and your future child. In order to achieve this, you have to invest in having:
- Extra calories: in case you were at a normal weight before getting pregnant, you'll need extra calories to support the foetal development. Munch on nutritious foods, like a yummy bowl of oatmeal, and remember that by the second trimester, you'll need to add between 300 and 350 extra calories per day to your pregnancy diet. When you reach the third trimester, the intake should go up to 500 additional calories every day.
- Protein: you should eat two daily portions of protein, which is mostly found in meat, fish, eggs, legumes, dried fruits and nuts. Protein plays an important role when it comes to developing human cells, so it's essential for your little one. Why don't you try having an omelette for breakfast and some fish or chicken for dinner?
- Calcium: here's another 'must' in your pregnancy diet. Calcium has the essential function of building your baby's bones and, at the same time, keeping you away from future problems, like osteoporosis. Fill up on calcium by drinking a glass of milk, having two yoghurts and a slice of cheese.
- Vitamin C: don't miss out on vitamin C foods, which will reinforce your little one's immune system, along with yours too. You can get it from citrus fruits (have a daily glass of fresh orange juice!), and vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers and asparagus. It's better if you eat them rare rather than cooked, since high heat can remove vitamin C. But wash them carefully!
- Fruits and vegetables: there's a wide range of fruits and vegetables that are extra beneficial while expecting a baby. Among these, leafy green vegetables, like broccoli and spinach, and yellow fruits, such as cantaloupe and mango, are listed as huge sources of vital minerals and vitamins for your baby. One of them is phytochemical, which has to do with the proper development of the baby's eyes, skin, cell and bones. Though these are the most important ones, don't forget to eat other vegetables and fruits, like bananas, pears or corn, which are full of potassium and other vitamins.
- Whole grains and legumes: whole grains and legumes are mum-friendly too, since they have plenty of nutrients and they are also good to combat constipation and nausea. If you are not a big fan of whole grains, it's time for you to change that by giving them a chance. Whole wheat, rice, pasta and corn will be good allies of yours... because doctors recommend about six servings of whole grains and legumes a day!
- Iron-rich foods: avoid developing anemia in pregnancy by introducing many iron-rich options into your pregnancy diet. Beef, iron-fortified cereals, pork, dried fruits and beans have a lot of it.
Besides all of these components, your pregnancy diet should also incorporate four servings of unsaturated fats (avocado, almonds or peanut butter are both tasty and beneficial when consumed with moderation), omega-3 fatty acids (they are proven to boost your baby's brain development), salt, 12 to 13 glasses of water per day and prenatal vitamins (you should start taking folic acid as soon as you decide to look for a baby!). Take a look at this list of the best pregnancy foods to get more ideas.
What not to add to your pregnancy diet
Knowing what foods to avoid during pregnancy is as important as keeping a healthy pregnancy diet. You must stay away from alcohol, avoid having rare or undercooked meat and fish, especially high-mercury fish like shark, swordfish, marlin and king mackerel, which can damage your baby's brain. Keep yourself from eating cured meats, and only have ready-to-eat ones (there's the risk of getting toxoplasmosis, a disease that is dangerous to unborn babies). If you can, it's better to avoid raw or runny eggs, along with certain types of cheese, like Roquefort, which is likely to grow bacteria.
Regarding food, not everything is about what to eat during pregnancy. There are certain things that have to do with your behaviour towards the way you eat. For example, you shouldn't diet to lose weight while expecting a baby, because you may run out of the nutrients, minerals and vitamins that you need more than ever before. That being said, the point isn't for you to open the fridge on a rampage and stuff yourself either. You need to follow the doctor's advice and put on weight gradually, which doesn't have to be dramatic; you can still treat yourself with sugary foods once in a while!
Following a pregnancy diet may not be exciting, but it's extremely necessary for you and your little one. Yes, you'll have to make more than one sacrifice, but you just need to remember the positive effects that a balanced diet entails.