Although “eating for two” is not entirely true, there are certain macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are needed for a healthy pregnancy. The outcome of your pregnancy and the health of the baby are both directly related to maternal nutrition. The average woman should gain between 25 and 35 pounds throughout the pregnancy, but each pregnancy is unique so this will vary from person to person.
This weight is distributed in many different areas of the pregnant body. About half of the weight gained is actually the fetus, placenta, and amniotic fluid. Another large portion of the weight is in the growth of the uterus, breasts, and an increase in tissue fluids and a huge increase in blood volume. Only a small percentage of weight is maternal fat stores. The body stores this fat during pregnancy as a biological function to prepare the body for breastfeeding in the coming months. Without this weight gain, it is unlikely that breastfeeding will be successful.
So what exactly is needed for optimal nutrition during pregnancy?
• Approximately 300 extra calories per day
• 60-70 grams of protein per day
• Multiple small meals throughout the day
• Follow hunger and fullness cues
• Increased Iron
• Calcium rich foods
• Folic acid (folate)
An additional three hundred calories per day is very easy to get in, but while doing so, it is also important to try to sneak in some of the other nutrients that are needed. It is also a good idea to eat a carbohydrate, a protein, and a fat together for ultimate absorption of the nutrients (and ultimate satisfaction!). Here are some 300 calorie ideas to start off with:
• Cereal with milk and a banana
• Baked potato with cheese and broccoli
• Chicken salad sandwich
Sixty to seventy grams of protein may seem like a lot, but many women probably already consume that much before they are pregnant. It is especially important to get the proper amount during this time because protein is the building block for all cells, tissues, and organs in our body, and in the baby’s body, which is growing very rapidly. Protein is found in nearly all animal and plant products, with the exception of fruit. For the best sources, choose meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and soy products.
Eating multiple small meals and snacks (5-6) throughout the day will increase energy, stabilize mood swings, and may even reduce morning sickness. It is also important to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. During pregnancy, your metabolism will change from day to day, so some days you will fell hungry all day long, and other days you may feel like you do not have much of an appetite at all. Do not worry, your body will let you know what it needs, so listen, and do not ignore what it is telling you.
Fats seem to have a bad reputation, but they actually play some big roles in the body. They are important for tissue development of the baby, especially its brain and nervous system. Fats also carry fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) to all parts of the body. Like other macronutrients, they provide energy and when part of a meal, will help keep you full for longer.
Fats are also stored during pregnancy to be used during breastfeeding. Fat intake is absolutely essential for the breastfeeding mother, and without dietary fats, the body will no longer be able to produce sufficient quantity or quality of breast milk. Fish, nuts, oils, meats, and milk products are great sources of fats.
Iron is used to make red blood cells, so it is needed in increased quantities during pregnancy due to the large increase in blood volume. Iron also supports the immune system, so it can help keep you extra healthy during these nine months. Red meat is the best source of iron. It is also found in large quantities in fortified grains such as bread and breakfast cereals.
An adequate amount of calcium in your diet during pregnancy will ensure that the baby has strong, healthy bones and teeth without compromising your own calcium stores. It also reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, which can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby. Milk, yogurt, cheese, canned salmon, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, bok choy, and kale are all excellent sources.
Folate plays a huge role in making new cells and in the creation of genetic material such as DNA and RNA, so it is imperative to have sufficient amounts during pregnancy. Folate also decreases the risk of neural tube defects in newborn babies. Folate is present in all enriched grain products, including bread, crackers, and flour, to name a few.
Just like there aren’t two mothers who are the same, and no two babies are the same, it is safe to say that there are not any two pregnancies that are alike. With that being said, you should not compare how you feel and look for other pregnant women (and even to your own previous pregnancies). In these 40 weeks, your body will transform before your eyes. To some women, this time may fly by, while for others it may seem like a slow journey. Although all women experience vastly different emotional and physical feelings, many women share the same fears and concerns. For every single day of these nine months, you should live confidently, and worry a little less about common myths and misconceptions. Here are some tips that you should remember all the time, especially during pregnancy:
• End your search for the perfect body, and begin your search for the perfect YOU!
• Your relationship with food should be about health, nourishment, and enjoyment.
• It is ok to have coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, cheese, fish, and more.
• You can continue to exercise.
• Remember that you, and your body, are “post-baby”
End your search for the perfect body, and begin your search for the perfect YOU! First off, let me say, if you are worried about what your body will look like during and after pregnancy, you are not alone. 78% of women surveyed have the very same fear, but remember, your weight, shape, and size do not determine who you are. It is important to find a meaningful identity, which can then promote a healthy body image.
The way your perceive yourself when you look in the mirror can affect the way you act, just as the way you act can affect what you see when you look in the mirror. On the cover of numerous magazines each month and even on TV, the media blasts coverage about the “perfect pregnancy body” or the “baby bump”. Again, remember that there is no such thing as perfect; each one is unique, so embrace your pregnancy body and your baby bump, and enjoy the ride!
Your relationship with food should be about health, nourishment, and enjoyment…not about restriction and guilt. Learn how to eat healthy during this time by listening to you body. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This will guarantee that both you and your baby will receive all the proper nutrients that are needed without the treacherous counting and keeping track of every morsel of food that you put into your mouth.
Feed your cravings. Believe it or not, your body is smarter than your mind. It can not only tell you when you need to eat, but also what you should eat. Do not think that you are just craving ice cream because you are pregnant…you may actually need what is in the ice cream. Each and every food contains important nutrients for a healthy pregnancy and for the growth of your baby. Despite what you may have practiced in the past, carbohydrates, protein, and fat, are all essential parts of a healthy diet. And trust me, your body will let you know when you need them!
It is ok to have coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, cheese, fish, and more. Despite the old wives tales and rumors, you can in fact enjoy most of the same foods and beverages that you did before you were pregnant. Caffeine and chocolate are perfectly fine in moderation. It is safe to have up to 16 ounces of coffee per day, and the amount of caffeine in chocolate is so little, that it too is acceptable for pregnant women. Most fish are safe to eat (there are only 4 that are off limits-tile fish, swordfish, king mackerel, and shark).
Again, it is important to listen to your body throughout pregnancy. Morning sickness is actually thought to be a naturally effect to deter you from off limit foods. If the smell of cheese makes you completely nauseous, then it’s probably not necessary for you to eat it during pregnancy.
You can continue to exercise. If exercise is enjoyable for you (and if your doctor approves), it is completely safe to participate in these activities. It is not recommended to start something new, but if you have always loved yoga, by all means continue to go to class. There are many other things that can be done during “down time” if exercising isn’t your thing, such as reading, catching up with friends or family members, and journaling, to name a few. It is important to find what is most relaxing and meaningful to you, so you make the most of this time to yourself.
Remember that you, and your body, are “post-baby”. Try not to obsess over getting your “pre-baby” body back. Your body will be different, and eventually it will get to where it should be after pregnancy. You should not bother with the past, but focus on the future that you have with your baby! Your relationship with food and your own body image can positively or negatively affect how your children perceive themselves. Be sure that you are making a good impression on them by loving yourself. Plus, you owe your body a special thank you for the amazing process that is undergoing.
Contact us with any questions about eating and mental health issues. You or someone you know may be in need of outpatient eating disorder treatment.
Jennifer Pereira LPC, RD - Counselor & Dietitian
1. Do you worry that you have lost control over how much you eat?
2. Do you make yourself sick (or use laxatives/exercise) if you feel uncomfortably full?
3. Do you currently suffer with or suffered in the past with eating issues?
4. Do you ever eat in secret?
5. Does your weight affect how you feel about yourself?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if you are not satisfied with your current eating patterns, contact us for more information.