I cringe when I hear women say, “I’m pregnant. I can eat whatever I want.” While it’s easier to justify eating poorly when you can say, “the baby wanted it,” it is now, more than ever, a vital time to eat as healthy as possible for the proper development of your growing baby.
Before I begin I have to mention a few no-brainers. First, taking a prenatal vitamin is necessary each day. Also, drink water, LOTS of water. I aim to drink 60 ounces per day. It’s a challenge for me but so important! Go buy a huge water bottle and bring it EVERYWHERE you go.
Eating when you’re pregnant shouldn’t be that different than your normal diet with a few tweaks, but this is assuming you are eating clean and avoiding processed foods, but let’s face it, most Americans do not. Your prenatal diet, much like your normal diet, should be well balanced.
A diet high in protein is essential (70 g per day), especially in the third trimester for your baby’s brain, which is rapidly developing at this point. An abundance of fruits and vegetables are necessary to nourish you and your baby with vitamins and minerals. Dairy is key in providing calcium and Vitamin D for healthy bone, muscle and heart growth in your baby. Whole grains are sources of iron, magnesium and Vitamin B that provide energy for your baby’s development and helps build the placenta.
As for how many additional calories you should eat, most resources say 300-400 additional calories per day depending on how far along you are and if you were underweight or overweight to begin with. However, my rule of thumb is to listen to my body and to eat when I’m hungry – but nutritious food that is :).
Here are a few meal and snack options to get you started:
- Oatmeal or steel cut oats with cinnamon and fresh mixed berries (I usually do strawberries and blueberries)
- 2 whole grain waffles with sliced banana and strawberries
- Scrambled eggs (1 whole egg and 2 egg whites) with a whole wheat bagel thin with avocado spread on top
- Non-fat Greek yogurt (I buy Fage with the fruit, but only use half of the fruit) with low fat granola and half a banana
- Cereal (Kashi/Raisin Bran) with skim milk and bananas or berries
- Salad with chicken breast (garbanzo beans, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, and whatever cheese I have in the house) and apple slices with peanut butter
- Tuna on whole wheat toast and fruit
*It’s important to watch your mercury intake while pregnant so I only have tuna once in a while
- Roasted chicken breast (not deli meat, I buy it from Trader Joe’s pre-packaged) on a whole wheat bagel thin with a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato and avocado
*Since there are so many options you can mix and match one choice from each category.
– Chicken breast
– Ground turkey
– Lean Beef
– Sweet potato
– Brown rice
– Whole grain/gluten-free pasta
– Butternut squash
– Green beans
– Brussel sprouts
- Hummus with pretzels, carrots or pita chips
- Cheese and whole wheat crackers
- Apple slices with natural peanut or almond butter
- Protein Shake (almond milk, almond butter, frozen berries, one scoop of chocolate whey protein powder)
- Non-fat Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
Now I have to mention a few obstacles to eating a well-balanced diet when pregnant. In the first trimester 2/3 of women experience nausea and vomiting. It is hard to keep anything down, never mind trying to eat a balanced diet. Eat what you can, even if its only broth, crackers and toast, and stay hydrated.
Another obstacle is crazy pregnancy cravings. Remember, I’m in this with you so I totally get it! What I try to do to fulfill my craving is to replace it with a similar but healthier option. For example, if I’m craving chocolate I’ll slice some strawberries and bananas and top them with two teaspoons of Nutella. If I’m craving ice cream I’ll opt for frozen yogurt with chopped nuts, fruit or a few chocolate chips. Now don’t get me wrong, occasionally I will cheat and have what I really want but only a small amount. However, it’s not okay to eat a sleeve of Oreos or a quart of Haagen Dazs!
Proper nutrition is so important for a healthy pregnancy and baby, and that’s what eating for two really means :).
*Please keep in mind that I’m not a nutritionist and I’m having a healthy pregnancy with no complications. Your doctor might recommend a better diet for your specific situation.