We’re sitting down with a registered dietitian and a local OB/GYN to talk about how to eat your way to a healthy pregnancy.
- CJ Anderson
- Irene Franklin
- Brian E. Drake, MD
During pregnancy the amount of blood in your body increases. That’s why it’s important to drink plenty of water and increase your iron intake. Folic acid intake is an important factor as well.
Pregnancy is also a great time to start modeling a healthy diet for your child. Increasing fruit and vegetable intake, monitoring fat intake, reducing junk food and added sugars. These steps will not only help make sure you’re naturally taking in the vitamins and nutrients your growing child needs, it will set the stage for a
Eating for Two?
For the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy your baby weighs less than a pound. The “eating for two” concept is really more about the added importance of key nutrients and maybe adding a healthy snack in the afternoon or before bed.
It’s not at all uncommon for pregnant women to experience cravings for different kinds of food. Dr. Drake encourages women to indulge cravings for healthy foods, but to put some thought into the cause of cravings for junk foods. For example, craving ice cream and pickles can be a symptom of not getting enough calcium. Instead of always opting for the salty and sweet options, look for natural sources of calcium (leafy greens, broccoli, orange juice).
Here’s a great breakdown on plant-based sources of calcium from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Some women experience cravings for non-food items, such as clay, dirt or laundry detergent. These cravings are dangerous when indulged and can increase risk for lead toxicity.
- Recreational Drugs
- Raw Eggs
- Raw Meats
- Raw Fish
Things to Cut Out (or thoughtfully consider before eating)
- Empty calories (foods without many nutrients)
- Juice with sugar added
- Fast Foods
- Anything high in salt, sugar or fats
Pregnancy affects your immune system and can increase your risk for foodborne illnesses. Avoiding raw eggs, meats and fish is important. In many cases (such as at delis or other places where food is prepared fresh) the same risks can be applied to lettuce and vegetables if improperly handled around meat. It may be a good idea to heat up your deli meats and let them cool, or to avoid restaurants/buffets if you can’t see the food being prepared or make sure cross-contamination isn’t happening.
This is another opportunity to start modeling safe food practices. Safely handled foods are also very important when your child starts eating solid foods.
Safe Food Tips
Separate cutting boards for meats and produce
Washing all your fruit and vegetables (even if you aren’t eating the skin, peel or rind of the food once your knife cuts into it whatever is on the outside is transferred to the inside).
There are healthy ranges of weight gain, but it still depends greatly on the individual and their health. There are factors like edema or swelling that can cause weight gain even if proper diet and exercise is being followed. It’s generally a good idea to stay comfortably active during pregnancy.
Generally you want to gain weight slowly throughout the pregnancy. Dr. Drake generally advises patients to look for a 2-4 pound weight gain in the first trimester and then one pound per week after that. A woman with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) should gain about 25 pounds in their pregnancy. If you are under or overweight this range could extend up to 40 pounds (for women who are underweight) or down to 15 pounds (for women who are overweight). With that being said, Dr. Drake does not recommend his patients to go on diets while pregnant. Losing weight while pregnant can be dangerous for fetal growth.
Exercise During Pregnancy
Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, but how does your routine needs to change while pregnant? Dr. Drake believes that the types of things you are doing before pregnancy are usually ok to do while pregnant. However, after 20 weeks it’s probably a good idea to stop exercises where you are laying on your back (these can compress the uterus and decrease blood flow to the baby), or activities where there’s a risk of trauma (downhill skiing, cycling, base jumping).
When exercising it’s important to keep your heart rate under 150 beats per minute. This follows the old rule of thumb that you should be able to maintain a conversation while exercising.
What to Eat During Pregnancy
- Clean sources of protein (Soy, tempeh, edamame)
- Lean, unprocessed meats without the skin
- Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
Exposing Your Unborn Baby to Spices/Flavors
The amniotic fluid of every mother has a unique flavor that is partially influenced by what they eat. Your unborn baby begins to learn about the world of flavor before he or she is born. You may discover quickly that your baby “likes” or “doesn’t like” certain kinds of food. If a certain kind of food seems to not sit well with you or the baby that’s fine. If that food is rich in key vitamins or nutrients you may need to find a different source for those substances.
While there are many different opinions on caffeine consumption during pregnancy Dr. Drake follows the American College of OBGYN’s preference. 200-300 milligrams of caffeine (1-2 cups of coffee) per day. Depending on how much coffee someone was drinking before pregnancy Dr. Drake advises no more than one cup of coffee per day. Too much caffeine seems to increase the risk for miscarriage, per-term labor and smaller than average babies at birth.
Organic vs. Conventional Foods
Irene notes that food may be grown organically without being certified organic. If you are familiar with the source you can find great quality produce that may not have organic certification.
The Environmental Working Group has created a list called The Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen lists 12 foods that are likely to carry the heaviest pesticide load and the Clean 15 identifies foods that are considered to be safer to buy when grown conventionally. If your budget is limited the items on the Dirty Dozen list may be the ones worth spending a little extra to get in an organic version.
Author: LivingWell PDX Blog
Adventist Health is committed to creating a healthier Portland community.