Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition

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( A healthy diet is crucial to having a healthy pregnancy. Good nutrition is essential to ensuring that a mother's body can give the unborn baby the nourishment she or he requires to develop and grow.

Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition

Energy - really eating for two?
Energy requirement varies among individuals. Unfortunately, pregnancy is not the ice-cream-free-for-all as we would like it to be. It is generally recommended that pregnant women increase their daily intake by 100 calories in the first trimester and 300 calories in the second and third trimester. For instance, an extra snack before bedtime consisting of a fruit, a serving of milk or yogurt and a few biscuits is often enough. A daily prenatal multivitamin supplement is often recommended during pregnancy.

Further Reading: Healthy Weight Gain during Pregnancy

Folate, or folic acid, is needed to support the increasing maternal blood volume and to decrease the risk of baby Neural Tube Defects (NTD). Diet alone is not likely to provide enough folate. Therefore, it is recommended that women should start taking a daily folate supplement of 400 mcg (0.4mg) 3 months prior to conception and increase to 600 mcg in the first 3 months of the pregnancy.

Iron is essential to maintaining a sufficient level of blood supply to the growing baby and the placenta. As many women's iron stores are not enough for meeting the increased requirements during pregnancy, a daily low dose iron supplement (30mg) is often recommended during the second and third trimesters. You can help prevent iron deficiency anemia by eating more iron-rich foods like lean red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, whole-grain breads, and iron-fortified cereals.

Further Reading:
Iron Rich Foods
Iron Supplements

Calcium and Vitamin D
Your baby gets the calcium necessary for healthy bones and teeth from the mother's supply. Depending on your age, it is recommended to include 1000mg - 1300mg of calcium and 200IU of Vitamin D in your diet. It means 4 - 6 servings of dairy products or calcium-fortified foods a day. If calcium intake is insufficient during pregnancy, calcium supplements may be needed.

Further Reading:
Calcium Supplements
Calcium Nutrition
Calcium cuts Major Pregnancy Complications
Vitamin D and Bone Health

Managing Pregnancy Symptoms

Dietary Cautions

  • Caffeine: some authorities suggest to limit coffee to 3 - 4 small cups a day; some such as the US Department of Health suggests to avoid it completely.
  • Seafood: Avoid high-mercury fish such as Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel and Tilefish. Also limit fish intake to no more than 2 servings per week. For more info - read Is it Safe to eat Fish during Pregnancy?
  • Artificial Sweeteners: use in moderation. For more info on sweeteners - read Which Artificial Sweeteners are Safe?
  • Herbal Tea: Some herbal teas are safe to drink during pregnancy. These include citrus peel, ginger, lemon balm, orange peel and rose hip teas. Avoid chamomile tea. 

Further Reading:
Foods to Avoid during Pregnancy

The Bottom Line: Pregnancy and Diet

  • You will very likely experience cravings, but eating a balanced diet now is more important than ever. So eat healthy - do not skip meals.
  • If you are trying to conceive, take folate supplement now.
  • If you are already pregnant, take your daily prenatal vitamin supplement.
  • If you do not eat 4 - 6 servings of dairy daily, do some math on your daily calcium intake. Don't forget the calcium content in your prenatal vitamin. If the total is less than 1000mg, you may need to take a calcium supplement.
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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.