You’re craving cottage cheese. You pick up the entire container, a large spoon and that’s it, you’re going in … wait. Is this safe to eat? What did the doctor say again? Nowadays, there is an abundance of information out there for expecting mamas, and sometimes it can feel more overwhelming rather than helpful.
Among trying to juggle your emotions, family and life, the last thing you need is to worry about what you’re eating. How can a hungry pregnant woman manage?
“One of the biggest concerns expecting moms face is trying to sift through all of the information available on nutrition during pregnancy,” says Brandy Frederiksen, a certified birth doula, midwife and Bradley birth instructor with The Birth Nest of Cincinnati.
“I always emphasize that women focus on ‘progress, not perfection’ when it comes to their nutrition. Everyone is starting from a different baseline, with their own unique food preferences and lifestyle choices,” Fredericksen says.
The good news is, healthy eating it isn’t as bad as we may think. Sticking to what your body craves and what your doctor says may be all your “prego-brain” can take or need. If you were eating healthy before you got pregnant, there are only a few modifications you need to make now that you are. If you were a fries and milkshake kind of mama, it may be a bit harder to start incorporating healthy eating habits into your diet to be sure that you and your baby are getting all of the proper nutrients you need.
“By taking each day as a fresh start, every woman has the opportunity to make a different choice when it comes to what she eats that day in order to feel confident in her ability to eat well for the baby or babies she is carrying,” says Frederiksen.
EAT THE RIGHT CALORIES
Each and every body is different, and every pregnant body is different, too. The “right” amount of calories an expecting mom needs to maintain and gain healthy baby weight varies depending on her daily activity level and lifestyle. Frederiksen says a woman carrying one baby requires at least 2600 calories per day in order to sustain a healthy weight and pregnancy.
“But it’s not just about how many calories are consumed,” Frederiksen says, “it’s about where those calories are coming from that matters.”
SCIENCE BEHIND EATING
There are some things we are not in control of when we are growing another human being (morning sickness, hormone surges, food cravings) but to the slightest degree you CAN control it, why not do the best you can? Frederiksen says the most important thing a woman can do in her pregnancy, is to maintain good health.
“During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume needs to expand by 50 – 60 percent,” she says. “This requires adequate calories, protein and salt. Deficiencies in any of these areas can lead to inadequate blood volume expansion which is associated with various complications of pregnancy.”
Complications related to deficiencies in the blood include: high blood pressure, severe edema (swelling), preeclampsia, HELLP syndrome and premature birth.
However, when a mama is well nourished, her baby is well nourished. This means with a healthy diet, both the mama and baby have a lower risk of complications during and even after Baby is welcomed into the world.
Healthy foods are always the safest, best way to go. The more natural, the better the nutrients to help Baby’s developing mind, bones and immune system. One very important macronutrient that mama needs in her diet is protein.
“Research suggests a minimum of 80 – 100 grams of protein a day is needed for adequate blood volume expansion to support a healthy pregnancy,” says Frederiksen. “Protein also provides the building blocks for fetal growth and development.”
Some moms worry they aren’t getting enough nutrients due to their special dietary needs. For example, they may be lactose intolerant, allergic to gluten, a vegetarian or vegan. However, there are alternate food sources out there to accommodate. According to Frederiksen, the best way to be sure you’re taking in all of the essential nutrients for you and Baby is to choose wisely and do your research.
“Women with special dietary needs will just need to be conscious and diligent in their food choices so that they are getting enough vitamins, minerals, protein and salt to support the pregnancy,” she says.
Discuss specific nutritional information with your doctor, of course, and follow his or her guidelines for your good and sustaining prenatal care.
We are all different, and your body has a way of telling you what it needs, so listen closely! Eat well, be well and chance are, you will have a wonderful, healthy pregnancy!
What’s on the Menu?
What should you eat? We have the top problematic foods, plus better alternatives for a happier, healthier pregnancy.
Eat This: Flounder, rainbow trout, shrimp, cod, mahi mahi, tilapia and catfish. (Provides healthy DHA, omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of healthy proteins.)
Not That: High mercury fish which includes shark, swordfish, mackerel and tuna. (High mercury can be dangerous for Baby. Raw fish such as sushi should also be avoided as it has a higher risk of carrying harmful bacteria that can cause illness to Mom and Baby.)
CHEESES & DAIRY
Eat This: Pasteurized milk and dairy made from pasteurized milk including skim and 1 percent milk, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese and yogurts. Soy and almond milk are non-dairy but still have an excellent source of calcium and protein for moms who are lactose intolerant. (Dairy provides calcium, Vitamin D, protein and more for Mom’s and Baby’s bones, teeth, heart and nerves.)
Not That: Unpasteurized dairy products such as Brie, goat cheese and other soft cheeses made from “raw” milk. (More likely to carry bacteria which can be dangerous for Mom and Baby.)
MEATS & POULTRY
Eat This: Fully cooked ground/processed meat and poultry, cooked until steaming hot. (Fully cooked meats and poultry are safe plus offer a great source of protein and iron — just what a pregnant mama needs!)
Not That: Undercooked or raw meat, especially poultry and ground/minced meat. (A pregnant mom is more susceptible to getting sick with food poison and other illnesses, so it’s best to avoid any undercooked meats.)
Eat This: Whole foods, or natural foods with less than five ingredients. This included nuts, beans, lean meat, legumes, avocado, sweet potatoes leafy greens, fruits, vegetables and eggs. (Whole foods and natural foods are loaded with healthy vitamins, healthy fats, proteins, probiotics and more. A pregnant mom and her bump need healthy, natural foods for growth and development.)
Not That: Processed foods and “junk” foods such as chips, frozen meals, fast food, foods with added sugars and additives and sweets. (Let’s face it, we can’t always resist a pregnancy craving, but too much junk food can be dangerous to your baby. Plus, it puts Mama at higher risk for developing complications and fatigue. It’s all about balance, so be sure the goods foods significantly outweigh the bad for a healthy, happy pregnancy.)
Drink This: If you’re craving warm fluids, warm milk or low-sodium broth are the way to go. (Milk is a great source of proteins, calcium and vitamins for Baby’s development.)
Not That: Herbal teas that contain nettles, dandelion, alfalfa and bilberry. (Most herbal teas are not safe due to the diuretic properties, meaning causing increased urine.)