Eating a healthy diet is essential throughout pregnancy. Not only is good nutrition important to help you feel your very best, it also helps to maintain good heart health, and it's really important for the growth and development of your baby.
One very common question pregnant women ask is, "Am I really eating for two?" Unfortunately, the answer is no! Pregnancy it not a time for indulging unnecessarily. Your calorie requirements throughout pregnancy are dependant on how physically active you are, and also your pre-pregnancy weight.
In America, an extra 300-calories per day is encouraged in the final six months. But, again this is intended to be a guideline only - I believe women need to listen their own bodies first and foremost, and workout what suits them personally.
If you think about it, 300-calories isn't an awful lot. It may equate to as little as an extra snack before bedtime, such as fruit, a bowl of cereal, and a serving of milk or yogurt.
In actual fact, a healthy diet during pregnancy isn’t really all that different to the recommendations for a healthy diet in general. If you are already eating quite healthily, you should find it relatively easy to make a few slight adjustments to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
So, what is a healthy diet in pregnancy?
1. Starchy carbs
Complex carbohydrates are foods such as whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas, and brown rice. It's important to choose these foods more often than their nutritionally deficient counterparts, white bread, white pasta, cookies and sugars, etc.
In terms of fiber, try to eat 20 to 35 grams per day, from high fiber breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables, as this will help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids, which are common in pregnancy. And, don't forget to drink plenty of water too.
2. Meat and beans
Include 2-3 portions of lean protein in your diet each day including eggs, lean meats (beef, chicken, turkey etc), fish (tuna, salmon etc), bean, peas and lentils, nuts, soy and tofu.
Iron is important to make sure your body can supply sufficient blood to your growing baby, and the placenta. Make sure you are eating plenty of iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, wholegrain breads, and iron-fortified cereals. Drinking a vitamin C rich drink with your meal will also help absorb the iron more efficiently.
Guidelines recommend 27 mg of iron per day.
3. Milk and dairy
Your calcium intake during pregnancy is very important, so try to include around 3 portions of milk and diary foods in your daily diet. Suitable choices include fresh milk, calcium fortified soy milk, cheese, yogurt, and soft or cottage cheese.
Guidelines recommend 1,300 mg of calcium per day for 14-18 year olds, and 1,000 mg of calcium per day for 19-50 year olds.
Vegetables provide your body with lots of important nutrients and also fiber. So, make sure you are eating 4 or more servings per day, and try to include a wide variety of different colored vegetables for maximum benefit.
Aim for around 3 servings of fruit each day, again choosing different colored fruits to help ensure you are getting a wide range of beneficial nutrients for you and your baby.
A note on folate
Folate (folic acid) is thought to help decrease the risk of Neural Tube Defects (NTD) in babies. It is recommended that women should start taking a daily folate supplement 3 months prior to conception, and should continue through the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Guidelines recommend 600mcg per day of folate.