20 Secrets to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

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The secret is to pace the gain, with weight gain increasing from very little in the first trimester to as much as a pound a week in the last two months of pregnancy.

No need to 'eat for two'

Nutrition experts agree that the best place for the mother-to-be to get all the essential nutrients , including ample amounts of vitamins and minerals, is from her diet. The trick is getting enough.

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Bartholomew's Hospital in London found that women taking folic acid supplements around conception had significantly lower risks for giving birth to babies with neural tube defects NTD , a type of birth defect where the embryonic neural tube that forms the future brain and spinal column fails to close properly. Luckily, in the U.


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Food and Drug Administration FDA issued a regulation requiring that all enriched grain products, including breads and pasta, be supplemented with folic acid. Every woman during the childbearing years should make sure she gets at least micrograms of folic acid from food or supplements. Whether a woman breastfeeds or not, the secret to post- pregnancy nutrition is to gradually regain a desirable figure, while maintaining or restocking nutrient stores.

Eating During Pregnancy

In addition, since some babies are planned and others are surprises, it's never too late to start nourishing the next baby by continuing to eat a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables , nonfat milk products, whole grains, and protein-rich beans and meats. Women's Health Feature Stories. Food labels can tell you what kinds of nutrients are in the foods you eat. The letters RDA, which you find on food labeling, stand for recommended daily allowance , or the amount of a nutrient recommended for your daily diet.

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When you're pregnant, the RDAs for most nutrients are higher. Here are some of the most common nutrients you need and the foods that contain them:. Scientists know that your diet can affect your baby's health — even before you become pregnant. For example, research shows that folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects including spina bifida during the earliest stages of fetal development. So it's important to get plenty of it before you become pregnant and during the early weeks of your pregnancy.


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Doctors encourage women to take folic acid supplements before and throughout pregnancy especially for the first 28 days. Be sure to ask your doctor about folic acid if you're considering becoming pregnant. Calcium is another important nutrient.


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Because your growing baby's calcium demands are high, you should increase your calcium consumption to prevent a loss of calcium from your own bones. Your doctor will also likely prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, which contain some extra calcium. Your best food sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products.

However, if you have lactose intolerance or dislike milk and milk products, ask your doctor about a calcium supplement. Signs of lactose intolerance include diarrhea, bloating, or gas after eating milk or milk products. Taking a lactase capsule or pill or using lactose-free milk products may help. Other calcium-rich foods include sardines or salmon with bones, tofu, broccoli, spinach, and calcium-fortified juices and foods.

Doctors don't usually recommend starting a strict vegan diet when you become pregnant. However, if you already follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can continue to do so during your pregnancy — but do it carefully. Be sure your doctor knows about your diet. It's challenging to get the nutrition you need if you don't eat fish and chicken, or milk, cheese, or eggs. You'll likely need supplemental protein and may also need to take vitamin B12 and D supplements.

To ensure that you and your baby receive adequate nutrition, consult a registered dietitian for help with planning meals. You've probably known women who craved specific foods during pregnancy, or perhaps you've had such cravings yourself.

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Although this turned out not to be so, it's still unclear why these urges occur. Some pregnant women crave chocolate, spicy foods, fruits, and comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes, cereals, and toasted white bread. Other women crave non-food items, such as clay and cornstarch. The craving and eating of non-food items is known as pica. Consuming things that aren't food can be dangerous to both you and your baby.

If you have urges to eat non-food items, notify your doctor. Bonus: These foods also provide approximately 2 to 6 mg of zinc to help you meet your requirement of 12 mg per day. Since you're more likely to get constipated during pregnancy , make your goal at least 25 grams of fiber and plenty of water per day. Your go-to foods include:. Early in your pregnancy, nausea may cause carb cravings — which means you may long for a piece of bread or a few crackers to ease the quease.

The trick?

Eating During Pregnancy

Stock up on gluten-free bread and cracker alternatives; you should have your pick even a gluten-free aisle! The educational health content on What To Expect is reviewed by our team of experts to be up-to-date and in line with the latest evidence-based medical information and accepted health guidelines, including the medically reviewed What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff.

This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information.

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This educational content is not medical or diagnostic advice. Use of this site is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy. Getting Pregnant. First Year. Baby Products. If you're following a gluten-free diet for health reasons, here's everything you need to know about maintaining it and having a healthy pregnancy. The nutrition basics Eliminating grains from your diet means cutting out a major source of B vitamins including folate , fiber and important minerals like iron and zinc — all of which either occur naturally or are added during processing.

Still, it's worth making an extra-special effort to get plenty of the following nutrients during pregnancy: More About Healthy Pregnancy Nutrients.