Pregnancy is an exciting time, a time when a healthy diet is an essential part of a healthy pregnancy. Many women view this time as a time to eat what they want, as much as they want, and whenever they want because, after all, they are “eating for two.” The idea of eating for two is far from the truth.
Pregnant women only need about a 15 percent increase in calories from a non-pregnant woman. This translates into about an extra 100 calories per day in the first trimester and an extra 300 calories per day in the second and third trimester. If you were overweight prior to the pregnancy, you may not need additional calories. It is estimated that an overweight women needs an additional 100 calories per day in the second and third trimester. That’s equivalent to one slice of whole grain bread.
Packing all the increased nutritional needs of a pregnancy into a minimal increase in calories can be very challenging. It is especially challenging with common happenings in pregnancy, such as morning sickness, food craving, and constipation. Empty calories from sweets treats and juice can add up quickly, leaving you with a lot of weight to lose after delivery. It is possible to meet all the nutritional requirements for a healthy pregnancy, all while not gaining a tremendous amount of weight. Of course, there is some room for occasional treats!
The extra nutrients required in pregnancy are met by increasing your intake of protein, dairy, breads, grains, and cereals. If you choose your foods wisely from these food groups, you will likely meet the additional requirements for vitamins A, B, and D, folate, calcium, and iron in pregnancy.
Some examples of ways to meet these increased needs are to have:
- Eight ounces nonfat milk, one slice whole grain bread with one tablespoon of peanut butter and one tablespoon of raisins.
- A turkey sandwich with one slice of mozzarella cheese on whole grain bread.
Remember, these additional foods should be added to a healthy pre-pregnancy diet that consists of a variety of nutritious foods
A healthy diet in pregnancy is important for many reasons, one being the relief of constipation. Constipation is a common complaint of pregnancy that is treated by changing your diet. The slowing of digestion or the movement of food through the digestive tract causes constipation. An inadequate intake of fiber and fluids, and not enough exercise can only worsen the situation.
Tips to Relieve Constipation
- Eat small frequent meals and snacks. Be sure to chew your foods thoroughly.
- Eat more high fiber foods. Raw fruits, raw or cooked vegetables, leafy vegetables, dried fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grain breads and cereals, oat bran, brown rice, dried beans and peas.
- Drink at least eight cups of decaffeinated liquids every day and try a cup of warm or hot liquid before eating breakfast.
- Exercise daily (check with your health care provider first).
- Try natural laxative, such as prunes, dried apricots or prune juice.
The best way to determine if you are eating enough or too much is to watch your own weight gain. It is recommended for most pregnant women to gain between 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy (28 to 40 pounds if underweight and 15 to 25 pounds if overweight). By choosing healthy foods and snacks, you will feel better throughout your pregnancy.
Tips to Help Control Weight Gain
- Avoid caloric beverages and stick with water and nonfat milk. Skip juice, soda, punch and lemonade and save these sweet drinks for special occasions.
- Watch portion sizes.
- Decrease intake of empty calories such as candy, cakes, pies, cookies, doughnuts and sweet rolls. Substitute fresh fruit or nonfat yogurt instead.
- Substitute skim or 1 percent milk for whole milk.
- Increase the intake of high-fiber, low-calorie foods, such as whole grain bread and crackers, apples, carrots, etc.
- Reduce the amount of butter, margarine, mayonnaise and salad dressings.
- Eat fewer fried foods.
- Keep high-calorie snack foods out of reach, or out of the house.
Think of this time as a time to be healthy and happy, and remember: It is not a time to “eat for two.”
- Mayo Clinic – Pregnancy nutrition: Foods to avoid during pregnancy
- Mayo Clinic – Pregnancy and fish: What’s safe to eat?