Healthy Living During Pregnancy: Part 1
by: Megan Blomeyer, MS-IV
Eating a well balanced diet and exercising are important components of healthy living for everyone, but they are especially important during pregnancy; not only for your health, but also your baby’s development. This blog series is intended to give you information about health and wellness during pregnancy. Part 1 will describe healthy eating habits, and part 2 will discuss exercising during pregnancy.
Healthy habits during pregnancy involve avoiding alcohol, tobacco, drugs and other harmful substances, gaining the right
amount of weight, exercising adequately and consuming the
appropriate vitamins, minerals and types of foods for healthy
pregnancy weight gain and proper development of your baby.
What foods should I eat?
1. three to four servings of fresh fruits and vegetables
2. nine servings of whole grains or enriched bread, cereal, rice or pasta
3. three servings of low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese
If you do not eat dairy products, you will need to supplement calcium, which is important for your baby’s organ development.
4. three servings of protein
Protein may include fish (shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and
catfish are acceptable 1-2 times per week or you may consume tuna steak once a week), eggs, dried peas or beans. One serving of protein is about three ounces or the size of a deck of cards.
Mothers who do not eat animal products may choose to speak with a nutritionist to ensure all necessary amino acids, which are essential for proper development of your baby, are consumed. Plant products are deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids. Some alternatives include eating fortified soy products, eating a variety of foods that contain all the essential amino acids and increasing the intake of dairy products and/or eggs. A nutritionist can assist you in finding the right balance for you.
Are there any foods I should not eat?
1. raw sprouts: alfalfa, radish, clover and mung bean, which carry germs easily
2. unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses and juice which also carry germs
3. Do not eat processed foods such as deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood, meat spreads and pâté because they may contain a bacteria that may cause premature delivery, miscarriage, stillbirth or serious health problems for your newborn.
4. Avoid fish, which could contain an excess of mercury. Mercury can hinder brain development in the fetus. These fish include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
5. Avoid alcohol completely due to the multiple birth defects it may cause.
6. Limit your caffeine intake to 1-2 cups (8 ounces) of coffee, tea or cola each day.
7. Artificial sweeteners such as Nutrasweet© (aspartame), Splenda© (sucrose), Sweet ‘N Low© (saccharin), Sunnet© (acesulfame potassium) and Stevia© (stevioside) have not been proven to increase one’s risk of birth defects; however, there is some evidence that Sweet ‘N Low© may increase the risk of bladder cancer in your child if consumed in very high quantities. Avoidance of Sweet ‘N Low© is recommended by some doctors. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Federal Drug Administration and American Medical Association have agreed that Nutrasweet© is safe to consume during pregnancy.
8. Herbal products must be discussed with your doctor because some herbal products may be harmful to your baby.
9. Gluten-free diets are important for women with diagnosed celiac disease or gluten insensitivity, but have not been shown to provide benefits for women without this condition. In fact, gluten-free diets in women without celiac disease have been shown to increase the risk of preterm birth, having a small for gestational age baby. Consumption of other whole grains to ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake may be needed.
How should I prepare the food I eat?
1. Make sure to wash your hands well with soap and water each time you prepare food
and fully cook all food items such as chicken, beef, fish, eggs and other meats.
2. Rinse all fruits and vegetables with running water before you consume them.
3. Clean all surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards, silverware and plates that touch raw meat or deli meat with hot soapy water after preparation.
What supplements are important for pregnant women?
A multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid for your baby’s brain development is important during pregnancy. Other supplements such as calcium, zinc, iron, vitamins A, B, E, C and D are also important for your baby’s development, but in general, most prenatal vitamins contain the right daily requirements for each of these vitamins and minerals; therefore, no further intake is necessary. If further vitamins and minerals are required because of dietary restrictions or other medical problems, you should discuss this with your doctor. Excessive intake of vitamins may be harmful to your baby.
How much weight should I gain?
Approximately 25-35 pounds of weight on average should be gained during pregnancy, but a person who is overweight or obese should gain less weight. The table below is based on information from the Institute of Medicine and details how much weight a pregnant woman should gain during her pregnancy based on her body mass index (BMI). BMI is a comparative measure of percentage of fat and muscle mass in a person’s body based on their weight and height. The BMI is calculated using the mother’s weight before she became pregnant.
Body Mass Index (BMI) Classification Weight Gain (pounds)
18.5-24.9 kg/m2 normal weight 25-35 lbs
25.0-29.9 kg/m2 overweight 15-25 lbs
≤30.0 kg/m2 obese 11-20 lbs
Healthy weight gain a female of normal weight is about 3-5 pounds per week in the first trimester and 1-2 pounds per week in the second and third trimester. An underweight female, should gain about 5-6 pounds per week in the first trimester followed by 1-2 pounds per week in the second and third trimesters, while an overweight person should gain about 1 pound per week throughout her pregnancy. Eating the same amount of food you would normally consume during the first trimester, increasing your caloric intake by 340kcal/day in the second trimester and 452 kcal/day in the third trimester is adequate to obtain this goal.
Women who do not gain enough weight during pregnancy are at risk of delivering a baby that is small for their gestational age, which is the period of time the baby remains inside the female uterus. Gestational age is calculated beginning with the time of fertilization, the date the egg and sperm met, to the current date.
Women who gain too much weight are at risk of delivering a baby that is large for gestational age and other pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, backaches, pre-eclampsia, leg pain, excessive tiredness and delivery complications.
Making the right food choices and gaining an appropriate amount of weight are important components of a healthy pregnancy for both your well-being and also the development of your baby. If you have any questions about the information in this blog or would like further information, please contact your health care provider. Be sure to check back next month for more information about exercising during pregnancy.
Gillen-Goldstein, J., et al. Nutrition in Pregnancy. Up To Date. 6 August 2013. Accessed 5 October 2013.
<http://www.uptodate.com/contents/nutrition-in-pregnancy?detectedLanguage=en&source=search_results &search=pregnancy +nutrition&selectedTitle=1%7E150&provider=noProvider>.
Rocco, G. Exercise and Nutrition in Pregnancy. Family Medicine and Women’s Health.
Wellness Program. University of California Riverside. Accessed 6 October 2013. <http://wellness.ucr.edu/Exercise_ and_Nutrition_in_Pregnancy2.pdf>.
Up To Date. Patient Information: Nutrition before and during pregnancy (The Basics). Accessed 5 October 2013. <http://www.uptodate.com/contents/nutrition-before-and-during-pregnancy-the-basics?detected Language=en&source=search_result&search=pregnancy+nutriton&selectedTitle=2%7E150&provider=noProvider>.