As introduced in the previous article about nutrition during pregnancy, healthy eating is vital for both the mother and the baby. Part one of this series covered the foods that should be avoided or consumed on a very limited basis during pregnancy.
This week, in part two, we will cover the foods that should be consumed by the mother to help support the mother’s health, as well as the health of her growing baby.
Healthy eating during pregnancy follows the same basic principles of nutrition for the general population. Mothers-To-Be- should eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. However, there are some nutrients that need to be highlighted because of their importance during pregnancy.
Folate is one of the B vitamins that helps to prevent the neural tube defect, spina bifida (1). Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and can be found in supplements and fortified foods. Supplementing with folic acid has been successful with decreasing the risk of premature birth (1).
How much you need: 400 to 800 micrograms a day of folate or folic acid
Good food sources: Fortified cereals are excellent sources of folic acid. Folate can be found in spinach, dark leafy greens, beans, asparagus, oranges, and peanuts.
Calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also beneficial for maintaining the health of your circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems (1).
How much you need: 1,000 milligrams a day; pregnant teenagers need 1,300 milligrams a day
Good food sources: Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), fortified cereals and juices, salmon, spinach, broccoli and kale.
Just like calcium, vitamin D is needed for strong bones and teeth (1).
How much you need: 600 international units (IU) a day
Good food sources: Fatty fish (salmon), milk, fortified juices, and eggs.
During pregnancy, women need double the iron than before pregnancy. The body needs this additional iron to help make more blood to supply oxygen to the baby.
Iron deficiency anemia can result if women don't have enough iron stores or consume enough iron during pregnancy (1). Severe iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy can increase the risk of having premature baby, having a baby born with a low birth weight, and postpartum depression (1).
How much you need: 27 milligrams a day
Good sources: Lean red meat, poultry and fish, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, and spinach.
Eating for Two?
Another very important component of healthy eating during pregnancy is forgoing the myth that you must eat for two. Pregnancy does not give women the license to eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Believe it or not, most pregnant women only need to eat about 300 extra calories each day (2). The number of extra calories needed depends on the trimester of pregnancy that the woman is in:
First Trimester: No extra calories needed (3)
Second Trimester: only requires an additional 340 calories (3)
Third Trimester: 500 calories (3)
The number of extra calories needed varies and depends on your weight before pregnancy. When women are underweight before the start of their pregnancy, they may need more calories and if overweight, less (2). Talk to your health care provider to help determine the number of calories you may need to eat each day for a healthy pregnancy.
Additional Resources for a Healthy Pregnancy:
Office on Women’s Health:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/index.html
March of Dimes:
About the Author: Leanne DiMaio earned her Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College in December 2017. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition degree at Maryland University of Integrative Health.Leanne is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal state of health and wellness. She is currently earning clinical hours toward the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential under Kim Ross's supervision.
1. Mayo Clinic Staff. Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients. Mayo Clinic. 2017. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20045082. Accessed May 27, 2018.
2. March of Dimes. Eating healthy during pregnancy. Marchofdimes.org. 2014. Available at: https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/eating-healthy-during-pregnancy.aspx. Accessed May 27, 2018.
3. Food Insight. Healthy Eating During Pregnancy. FoodInsight.org. 2018. Available at: https://www.foodinsight.org/healthy-eating-pregnancy-nutrients-weight-gain-food-safety. Accessed May 27, 2018.