Great Expectations: Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

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Many first-time moms-to-be feel overwhelmed by the changes to their bodies, not to mention everything that has to be done to prepare for baby’s arrival. The importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy is nothing new. But an avalanche of information, news and well-meaning advice can make finding the right answers to your nutrition questions a frustrating puzzle.

Healthy pregnancy

Image courtesy of Altamar via flickr

So take a deep breath and let’s go down the healthy pregnancy checklist.

  • Food and nutrition
  • Liquids
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Mental joy and happiness

Food and nutrition

Always read all labels before you select any product in the supermarket. If you have doubts about any ingredient, do your own research and remember that only facts and statements backed by respected scientific or medical institutions and universities should be trusted. It’s best to opt for organic or locally grown produce.

So what is a healthy and balanced diet and what foods should you avoid?

A healthy and well-balanced diet is essential not only for the expectant mom but for proper development of her baby. The following list explains the best foods to include in your diet and recommended amounts of each:

Meat, eggs and beans:  Protein is important for your baby’s growth, especially during the second and third trimesters. Try to consume around 6 ounces of these foods daily. Choose lean meats such as poultry or lean beef, pork, veal or lamb three times a week, and fish at least once a week (see below for which fish to avoid).
Milk and dairy: The calcium and vitamin D in dairy products and calcium-fortified soy milk is important for baby’s bones and teeth. Drink about 16 ounces of milk a day, include pasteurized soft cheeses (see below which cheeses to avoid), plain yogurt with live cultures or soft cottage cheese daily.
Fruit: Fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet during pregnancy; try to get 3-5 servings of fresh or dried fruit a day, preferably organic. Check out these superfoods that can make your selection easier.
Vegetables: Try a colorful salad (leafy greens, carrots, peppers, red beets) daily as a side dish or an afternoon snack. Garlic and onions are healthy additions that can add flavor. Be sure to choose a variety of colors since different colors of fruit and vegetables help your immune systems in different ways.
Bread and grains: Whole-grain breads and pizza, cereals and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal or crackers at least twice a day.
Nuts and seeds: Raw and unsalted nuts like almonds, walnuts, sunflower, sesame or pumpkin seeds, at least a handful a day, or nut butter spreads without added sugar.

pregnancy and nutrition

Avoid or at least reduce:
– refined sugar: use honey or other better sugar alternatives
– butter and pork lard: use olive oil or vegetable spreads without hydrogenated oils instead
– refined table salt: use sea or rock salt instead
– liver and other animal organs
– processed meats like sausages and cold cuts
– white flour breads and products
alcohol: avoid hard liquor completely, consult your doctor about occasional consumption of red wine based on your health condition. According to a new study, a glass of wine a week could help your baby’s mental health.
– caffeine: reduce your daily intake to 300 mg maximum; 8-ounce cup of coffee has approx. 150 mg of caffeine and black tea has about 80 mg. New 2015 U.S. government guidelines suggest to reduce daily intake of caffeine to 200 mg a day.
big fish: avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or white snapper for their high levels of mercury; also avoid all raw fish, especially shellfish such as oysters and clams
– unpasteurized milk and cheese
– canned food

Try to avoid overeating candy and sweets. If you need to satisfy your cravings, select healthier products sweetened with honey or other natural sweeteners, avoid products containing high fructose corn syrup. Some suggestions: You can replace ice cream with fruit sorbet, heavy cakes with fresh fruit pies, sugar cookies with oatmeal or honey cookies, chocolate candy with quality dark chocolate bars.

Important vitamins and minerals during pregnancy

Vitamins and minerals are essential to the proper development of your baby. You can find prenatal multivitamin supplements that are specifically designed to satisfy the daily needs of vitamins and minerals for a pregnant woman; supplements should not be a substitute for a well-balanced diet.

Suggested daily amounts and the foods that supply them:

Vitamin E: 15 mg/day; mustard greens, spinach, sunflower seeds, almonds
Vitamin C: 85 mg/day; oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, honeydew, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, green peppers, tomatoes, mustard greens.
Vitamin  B9 or Folic acid: 600 mcg/day; leafy vegetables, beans, cereal, whole grains, sunflower seeds, grapefruit, broccoli, veal, and legumes
Calcium: 1000-1300 mg /day; milk, yogurt, cheese, almonds
Magnesium: 360 mg/day; tuna, halibut, bananas, bran, oats, milk, yogurt, almonds, dark greens
Iodine: 175 mcg/day; yogurt, milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese, strawberries, kelp
Iron: 30 mg/day; meats, eggs, tuna, sunflower seeds, dried apricots, sun dried tomatoes, sesame seeds and butter (tahini), roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, cocoa powder and chocolate, dried herbs such as thyme, parsley, spearmint, black pepper

Check out current multivitamin reviews.

If you’re dealing with morning sickness, diarrhea, or constipation, try some of the following tips to help your body:

Morning sickness: Snack on whole-grain crackers, cereal, or pretzels before getting up; eat small, frequent portions during the day; avoid heavy foods all day.
Constipation: Include more fresh fruit and vegetables (dietary fiber) in your daily diet and drink plenty of liquids-see below. Read more about natural laxatives.
Diarrhea: Snack on foods like bananas, applesauce, white rice, oatmeal, or refined wheat bread to help absorb the extra water in your digestive system.
Heartburn: Eat small, frequent portions during the day; drink a cup of warm milk before your meals; and limit caffeine, spicy and acidic foods and drinks.

If you travel frequently, make sure you always have a “snack pack” handy with some nuts and fresh or dried fruit such as almonds and raisins to help boost your sugar level if you get nauseous or dizzy on the road.

Next: Staying active is important

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