If you just found out you are pregnant you might be super excited about all the additional food you’ll be able to eat in the next nine months. STOP right there! Contrary to popular belief, women do not need many additional calories during pregnancy.
Women in their first trimester actually don’t need any additional calories. Women in their second trimester need about 350 additional calories and 450 additional calories in their third trimester. For example, 100 calories is equal to a slice of whole-wheat bread, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 cup of milk, or 1 banana.
Eating healthy during pregnancy should include small, frequent meals made with a variety of foods throughout the day. Smaller meals help ensure you are getting enough calories and may minimize the dreaded morning sickness, the kind that doesn’t just occur in the morning. Smaller meals will also help as your belly grows and there is less room for food in your stomach.
Meals should include a variety of foods such as lean meats, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. As always, make sure you are drinking plenty of water and staying well hydrated. Caffeine is okay in small amounts but be sure not to exceed 200 mg per day, one cup of coffee or two cups of black tea depending on the strength of the brew.
Take special care to receive enough vitamins and minerals by taking your prenatal vitamins and consuming enough folic acid, iron and calcium. Fortified cereals, beans, green leafy vegetables and citrus foods contain folic acid beneficial in preventing spinal cord defects. Iron rich foods include meat, fish, green leafy vegetables, beans, and fortified cereals. Iron is important for transporting oxygen within the body and to the baby. It is recommended to consume iron rich foods with foods high in Vitamin C, including citrus foods, to help with absorption. Good sources of dietary calcium include low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese; these help with the development of the baby’s teeth, bones, heart, nerves, and muscles.
There are foods that should be avoided during pregnancy. Raw fish and refrigerated smoked fish should be avoided due to risk of listeria. Unheated luncheon meats, including hot dogs, should be thoroughly heated before consumed. Wild Alaskan salmon is okay to eat when pregnant. Canned tuna is a different story; it contains higher amounts of mercury. Limit intake to 6 ounces per week during pregnancy.
Healthy nutrition does not end after the baby is born. Breastfeeding mothers should continue to eat healthy, making sure to consume enough iron and calcium in addition to at least an extra 500 calories per day.
Don’t forget to be physically active during pregnancy. General recommendations include at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week but talk with your doctor before partaking in any exercise routine when pregnant.