Eating nutritious food supports good health during every stage of life. But it’s even more important during pregnancy. The nutrients that you take in while you’re expecting help you build a healthy baby and keep your own body in good working shape.
Expectant mothers should take prenatal vitamins, which provide extra insurance that you get the nutrients you and your baby needs. But you should rely on food, rather than just supplements, to give you the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you and your baby need.
Here at Westover Hills Women’s Health, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist Houmam Al-Hakeem, MD, wants you to know some of the most important basics of eating a healthy diet during pregnancy. Read on to learn about what to include in your meals each day.
Protein helps build your baby’s cells, tissues, brain, and immune system. Good sources of protein include lean meats, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, dairy, and soy products.
When eating seafood, choose fish and shellfish low in mercury, which can be harmful to your baby’s brain. The US Food and Drug Administration provides detailed information about choosing pregnancy-safe seafood on its Advice About Eating Fish page.
Generally, aim to eat 8-12 ounces per week of low-mercury seafood such as canned light tuna, salmon, shrimp, sardines, and catfish, according to the March of Dimes.
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt provide protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients that contribute to a baby’s healthy development. Dairy foods also help keep your bones strong during pregnancy and beyond.
Choose reduced-fat or nonfat dairy, which is best for heart health. If you are lactose-intolerant or vegetarian, seek alternatives such as soy or almond milk.
Whole grains provide fiber and other nutrients that are helpful for you and your baby. The fiber in whole grains can be especially helpful for keeping your bowel movements regular as constipation is a common problem for pregnant women.
Choose whole grains such as whole-grain breads, cereals, and pasta, as well as quinoa, brown rice, barley, and other yummy whole grains.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide a long list of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients, including vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, and folic acid, which is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects in a baby’s brain and spine.
Reach for fruits and vegetables of all colors to get a maximum range of nutrients. To cut back on added sugars, choose fresh fruit instead of cake or cookies for snacks or desserts.
Fats contribute to the healthy development of your baby’s brain and body. Choose healthy oils such as olive oil and nut oil. Healthy fats can also be found in fatty fish, avocadoes, nuts, and olives.
The right amount of food
You may have heard that when you’re pregnant, you’re eating for two. But a normal-weight woman needs only about 300 extra calories each day during pregnancy. Women who are underweight, overweight, or obese may have different calorie requirements.
By eating the right amount of food, you are more likely to gain a healthy amount of weight that’s best for you and your baby. If you’re not sure how much weight to gain or how much food to eat, ask Dr. Al-Hakeem or your midwife for advice.
Drinking enough water while you’re pregnant is good for you and your baby and helps prevent constipation. Aim for 8-12 glasses of water daily.
Pregnant women shouldn’t drink any alcohol. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have something fun in your glass at a party or barbecue. Mix a fizzy, refreshing alcohol-free drink by combining unsweetened seltzer, fruit juice, and fresh mint.
Answers to all your pregnancy questions
Dr. Al-Hakeem and our staff, which includes highly trained midwives, are here to answer your questions about nutrition, weight, prenatal vitamins, and any other pregnancy concerns.
To schedule an appointment at one of our two conveniently located San Antonio, Texas, offices, call us today or use our online tool.