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What should you eat while pregnant? How much do you need to eat? Should you be following a specific diet plan? Registered Dietitian Jessica Jurcak, owner of On The Move Nutrition, LLC and Coordinator of the Healthy Cleveland Initiative at the Cleveland Department of Public Health, shares five tips below for healthy nutrition during pregnancy.
1. It actually starts at preconception.
Building and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits prior to becoming pregnant can help reduce the likelihood of pregnancy complications including difficulty conceiving, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, miscarriage and premature birth. Furthermore, eating a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy helps ensure that your body is well-fueled and equipped with all the nutrients it needs to take on the endeavor of growing a new life. Regular exercise that includes both cardiovascular training and weight-bearing activities ensures that your bones and muscles are physically ready to take on the extra growth and weight that will be coming. It can also help with fertility and relieve stress.
2. Remember to take your prenatal vitamin.
Prenatal vitamins contain doses of nutrients including folic acid and iron that are key to preventing neural tube defects and anemia, respectively. Even if you eat a varied diet, a daily prenatal vitamin is still strongly recommended as a “safety net” to be sure you are getting enough of these nutrients.
3. Strive for a healthy weight gain.
Regardless of your starting weight, every woman should gain weight throughout the course of her pregnancy. However, the amount recommended varies based on the woman’s body mass index (BMI) at the start. The chart below shows the recommendations.
BMI at Start of Pregnancy Recommended Weight Gain
Less Than 18.5 (underweight) 28-40 lbs.
18.6-24.9 (healthy weight) 25-35 lbs.
25-29.9 (overweight) 15-25 lbs.
Greater than 30 (obese) 11-20 lbs.
On average, less than five pounds of the weight gain should occur during the first trimester. A modest increase in calorie intake of 300-500 calories per day will promote a healthy weight gain of 1-2 pounds per week during the second and third trimesters. Examples of 300-500 calories include a peanut butter sandwich, a two-egg, cheddar cheese omelet with a side of berries, or 6 oz. of Greek yogurt with ½ cup of mixed nuts. Find the best time(s) throughout the day to add in the extra calories. It doesn’t need to be all at once; you can eat slightly larger portions during your meals or add extra, small snacks throughout the day. Whatever works best for you!
4. Vary your foods and flavors.
Not only does a variety of food choices ensure a variety of nutrients, but the assortment of flavors will introduce the baby to these foods through the amniotic fluid before s/he is even born. Research shows that this exposure, along with its continuation through breastfeeding, may help increase a young child’s willingness to try and accept new foods later on.
5. Don’t forget about hydration.
Your blood volume increases around 50 oz. (a little over 6 cups) during pregnancy to support the extra growth and flow of nutrients, so make sure you keep up with drinking water throughout the day. While individual needs vary, generally aim for at least 60 oz. of water per day and remember to choose foods that also have water in them such as fruits, vegetables, soups and teas.
About Food Strong:
Food Strong (www.FoodStrong.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering and strengthening communities through fresh, local foods. Through our programs such as School Gardens and Care-A-Van, we aim to educate the community on the importance of healthy eating. Through our strategic partnerships, we are able to bring the best information to our community members!
Contact Executive Director Sara Continenza at [email protected]
with any questions or to get involved!