Look Good & Feel Great: Pregnancy Wellness Diet Plan
While health and vitality is important to everyone, when you’re pregnant, they take on a whole new meaning, for you are embarking on the job of providing the best nutrition for your unborn baby via your body. Apart from that, your health determines how well you get to care for your family once you’re a mother. Which is why we truly believe that the best time to begin practicing good eating habits for the good of your health is during your pregnancy!
Healthy eating does not necessarily mean dieting
When we mention ‘healthy eating’, many automatically associate it with dieting. In a typical sense of the word, dieting is usually tied to the aim of losing weight, and more often than not, health is not a major concern compared to the achievement of weight loss. Interestingly enough though, one would probably have fewer weight woes if their regular diet included the healthy mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and legumes. In other words, if one ate healthy in the first place!
Appropriate calorie consumption during pregnancy
A pregnant woman would need about 2200-2500 calories a day, compared to 1600-2200 for other adult women. Note though, that the more active a woman happens to be, the more calories she will need. The difference in calorie-count isn’t much, hence there is no call to literally ‘eat for two’, Your natural hunger cues and common sense are probably your best guides.
Diversify Your Diet During Pregnancy
Educating yourself on what’s good and what’s not (in terms of nutrition and calorific values), will be a good place to start. In most cases, if you have a gut feeling that a food has too much sugar, salt or fat, it probably does. Hence, either omit that certain food or have a very small portion just to satisfy your craving for it. (Yes, you don’t have to go all military-like on yourself for the sake of maintaining a healthy diet!)
The next smart step will be to widen your diet to include an appropriate diversity of foods. Picky eaters who think that a prenatal vitamin will cover your nutritional needs should think again, for no man-made supplement can come close to what natural foods have to offer in terms of nutritional values. Keeping your plate colorful and texture-rich are the best ways to go when it comes to eating healthy.
Making up those additional calories
As we mentioned earlier, forget the old cliche that you are eating for two when you’re pregnant. Adding the necessary extra calories during pregnancy is exceptionally easy if you make up your mind to eat well in the first place. For instance, you could add a slice of whole wheat bread with one tablespoon of peanut butter, washed down with a cup of skim milk. Or… enjoy a fruit cup or a cup of soup as part of your regular lunch. Merely adding one extra piece of chicken at dinner can also add up to the needed extra calories. Remember too, if at anytime nothing else but chocolate cake will do, by all means, have your cake, mama. (Just make it a small slice and not the entire cake!)
The relationship of pre-pregnancy weight and weight gain to pregnancy outcome.
What you weigh before becoming pregnant is more important than you think. A pregnant woman should gain approximately 25 pounds — more if she is underweight, less if she is overweight — for the health sake of her baby and herself. Remember though that weight gain is usually minimal during the first trimester and accelerates in the second and third trimesters.
Good Nutrition During Pregnancy
What and how much should you eat to be healthy during pregnancy? You want to pay special attention to certain nutrients and add about 300 extra calories to your diet. The average recommended daily caloric intake varies depending on your activity level and normal weight. Try your best to increase the intake of protein, iron, calcium and vitamins by eating the freshest foods available, and keep track of what you consume to ensure that both baby and you are getting all the essential nutrients. In that way, your weight gain will not only show that your pregnancy is progressing well, but also that it is being achieved through consumption of necessary and beneficial nutrients.
You should increase your protein intake to 60 grams during pregnancy to provide for the growth of your baby; your breasts, uterus, and placenta; for the increased blood volume; and for the production of amniotic fluid.
Iron is necessary for the formation of maternal and fetal hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying components of blood. Since your blood volume increases considerably during pregnancy and your baby is manufacturing blood cells too, your need for iron increases. During the last trimester, your baby also draws from you some of the iron reserves to use for the first four to six months of his or her life.
If your doctor recommends an iron supplement, do know that they are best absorbed if taken with foods rich in vitamin C, such as orange, grapefruit, or tomato juice. Absorption is impaired if you take them with antacids or calcium-containing foods, such as milk and cheese. Iron supplements sometimes cause an upset stomach, constipation, or nausea. If that is the case for you, remember that you can get much of the iron you need from iron-rich foods, such as organ meats, red meat, egg yolk, and legumes (dried peas and beans). Consult your doctor before stopping an iron supplement.
It is commonly recommend by doctors that you get between 1,200 and 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day when you’re pregnant. Calcium is essential for the development and growth of your baby’s skeleton, heart, muscles, and tooth buds. Lack of calcium in your diet will result in a depletion of your own stores of calcium.
Milk, milk products and sardines are the best sources of dietary calcium, while tofu and other soy-based foods come in a close second on the scale. If you happen to be lactose intolerant, reduced-lactose or lactose-free milk products may be good substitutes. In any case, your doctor may prescribe a calcium supplement if he thinks you need it.
While the recommended daily intake of nearly all vitamins increase 25 to 50 percent for pregnant women, the daily recommendation for folic acid (folate) doubles! Folic acid is important for the synthesis of all cells and for production of DNA and RNA, the building blocks of cells. Deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia (development of abnormal red blood cells) in the mother and neural tube defects in the fetus. Since adequate folic acid intake is so important for your baby and you, choose a diet high in foods containing this essential vitamin. Liver, lean beef, legumes, egg yolks, and dark green leafy vegetables are good food sources of folic acid. Folic acid supplements of 400 micrograms are usually recommended.
Foods to Avoid
Everything you consume is essentially fed to your unborn baby and that’s why it’s important to stick to a healthy diet. Remember, just as with the good foods you eat, the harmful substances you consume will also get passed directly on to your unborn child! For the good of your health and baby’s, it’s best to avoid the following:
Caffeine, a substance naturally found in coffee, tea and cola drinks, readily finds its way to the fetus. It is a powerful stimulant which actually increases production of stress hormones, causing the constriction of uterine blood vessels. This lessens your blood flow to the uterus and may temporarily decrease the amount of oxygen reaching the fetus. Hence, large amounts of caffeine cannot be good for your baby or you. However, caffeine consumption in very small amounts (one to two cups of coffee per day) is considered safe during pregnancy.
Anything that contains artificial Sweeteners
Many soft drinks and food with the proud labelling of “sugar-free” advertised on it, have, it place of sugar, an artificial sweetener called aspartame. Pregnant women are advised to either stay away from such foods or consume them in moderation. Aspartame contains phenylalanine, and an excess of phenylalanine in the body damages the central nervous system and can cause mental retardation. Pregnant women who have phenylketonuria (PKU) — a rare, inherited disease in which the body cannot metabolize phenylalanine must avoid aspartame altogether.
Certain herbal teas
Did you know that some herbal teas may have uncomfortable effects on certain people and some may even contain drugs? Ginseng tea, for instance, may contain a small amount of estrogen, where else chamomile tea may have traces of ragweed, which can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Teas made from juniper berries are known to cause stomach discomforts in pregnant women. Just because herbal teas are considered to be natural does not mean they are safe for everyone’s consumption. So, in general, avoid herbal teas except for those teas known to be safe for pregnancy such as peppermint, raspberry leaf and rooibos.
Heavy drinking during pregnancy (more than five or six drinks daily) puts the baby at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome. Affected babies are born with physical malformations, including microcephaly (abnormally small head), certain heart defects, and often, mental retardation. Some studies associate alcohol with a more frequent occurrence of birth defects and lower birth weights. No safe level of consumption has been established, so it is best to take a cautious approach during pregnancy by simply abstaining from alcohol.