Oh, Baby! Eating for Pregnancy
No matter where you are in your pregnancy, it’s never too late to begin eating healthier. In fact, nutrition can be one of the sweetest gifts you can give yourself and baby before and during pregnancy. Proper nutrition are building blocks for a healthy pregnancy. And, we are here to help. Every step of the way – whether we are prescribing your prenatal supplements or helping you make better eating choices, you can count on us.
Awareness that the food you eat provides your baby with a foundation for growth and development is a big step in the direction of optimal health.
Healthy Brain & Spine Development
Folic acid is a key nutrient that should be included in your diet to help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine such as anencephaly and spina bifida. Anencephaly is a serious birth defect that causes the baby to be born without parts of the brain and skull. It is estimated that more than 1200 pregnancies are affected by this condition each year in the US. Spina bifida is another birth defect that happens when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.
At CBHA, we suggest that you begin taking 400 mcg of folic acid supplement at the start of your pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. Your first trimester screen is the perfect starting point to ensure you are off to a great start!
Foods that contain folic acid
- Leafy greens – spinach and broccoli
- Cereal – check for cereals with 100% of folic acid daily value
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Egg yolks
Growing Strong Bones & Teeth
Another important part of nutrition during pregnancy is calcium. Your body can’t make calcium on its own, so it’s important to take a supplement or ensure you are getting an adequate amount through your diet. Calcium helps support the development of strong bones and teeth for your baby, and calcium reduces your risk of developing osteopetrosis later in life. We recommend that expectant mothers consume 1,000 mg of calcium per day either by supplement or food.
Foods that contain calcium
- Cheese (check with your doctor for a list of which cheeses are best)
What to limit during pregnancy
During pregnancy, remember that what you eat, or drink is also consumed by the baby.
- Caffeine. You don’t need to completely quit your morning routine, but it is best to limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg—which is equal to a 12 oz. cup of coffee or tea per day. Avoiding sugar filled sodas as your source of caffeine is a great way to eliminate empty calories during pregnancy.
- Refined Sugar & Fats. Reducing sweets and foods high in fat and sugar helps you reduce the risk of gestational diabetes. Checking ingredient labels will tell you where unnecessary sugars can be found.
- Foods high in fat or processed sugar. According to a study funded by the National Institute of Health, a diet high in fat and sugar during pregnancy may interact with a gene that controls early brain development in the fetus. This interaction potentially increases the risk for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in some children.
- Fish. Avoid fish with higher concentrations of mercury, which may include fresh tuna, swordfish, and mackerel. Instead, focus on fish with low concentrations of mercury – like tilapia, salmon, shrimp, canned tuna, cod, or catfish. Limiting fish to 2-3 servings per week.
What to avoid
Some things are simply not good for you during pregnancy. These include:
- Alcohol. Avoid alcohol during pregnancy to reduce the risks of miscarriage, still births, and life-long conditions.
- Cigarettes. Smoking during pregnancy can cause low birth weight and has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Raw meat. Avoid raw and undercooked meat as well, often contaminated with bacteria like salmonella (sorry; no ceviche).
- Drugs. Talk with your doctor about drugs you may be taking when you are pregnant.
- Cat litter/waste. Parasites in cat waste can be harmful for your baby if you become infected. Delegate the changing of the litter box until after the baby is born and use gloves when you are pregnant and gardening.
And remember: you are not eating for two!
There is an adage that when you are pregnant, you are eating for two. But, it’s important to know that although you are eating for you and your baby, you are not eating for two. In fact, you only need to take in an additional 300 calories per day to ensure you are consuming enough food for you and your baby. These 300 additional calories should be nutrient dense foods (veggies, fruits, legumes etc…) to help support your growing little one. But remember, not all calories are equal. It’s best to avoid empty calories during pregnancy such as soft drinks, sweets, refined sugars, and carbs.
For additional information on pregnancy nutrition, please call us to make an appointment with our onsite registered dietitian. We want to help support your pregnancy and ensure it is happy and healthy!