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All You Need to Know About Nutrition During Pregnancy

Are you pregnant? Congratulations! Now, you will most likely feel overwhelmed by a lot of questions about this important period in your life, particularly about adjusting your eating habits. Here, we offer general recommendations on adequate nutrition during pregnancy.
health diet during pregnancy

Overview

The key is to keep your diet balanced. At different pregnancy stages, you can focus on certain groups of products, depending on the needs of your baby.

More importantly, you need to understand that now is not a good time to try to lose weight or limit your weight gain.

Cutting down on valuable nutrients (iron, folic acid, omega-3, etc.), vitamins and minerals can adversely affect your baby’s development and your state of health.

If you decide to eat properly and include protein, cereals, legumes, valuable fats, vegetables and fruits in your diet, you will give your child a good start in life.

3 common pregnancy myths

Myth1: You need to eat for the both.

Fact. Logically, it is necessary to increase the supply of nutrients. However, you will only need an additional 300 kcal per day only in the second and third trimesters.

This figure may vary depending on your lifestyle and physical activity.

It is important to pay attention to the quality of products, the balance of nutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and trace elements), and not only on caloric value.

Try to avoid “empty calories” in fast and refined foods.

Myth 2: Little weight gain during pregnancy will facilitate delivery.

Fact: If the mother does not put on enough weight during pregnancy, it can pose risks for the baby, such as premature birth. During the period of gestation, the optimal weight gain is 18–30 lbs (8–14 kg).

Myth 3: A healthy pregnant woman does not experience discomfort.

Fact: Nausea, weakness, heartburn, back pain and constipation are common for many pregnant women. Often, it does not depend on their lifestyle.
Nevertheless, the expectant mothers who keep to a healthy diet, avoid excess sugar and fats, drink plenty of water, and exercise can significantly reduce these unpleasant symptoms.

Nutrition tips for every stage of pregnancy

First trimester

Starting from the first weeks of pregnancy, the female body adapts to its new state, creating a favorable inner environment for the development of a little person.

It coincides with the crucial stages of fetal formation: the blood and nervous systems, as well as the internal organs begin to evolve.

Since the baby is still very small and is growing slowly during this period, you do not need to get more calories.
It is much more important to receive a sufficient amount of protein, minerals, vitamins (folic acid, calcium, zinc, selenium and copper) and omega-3 fatty acids for the proper development of all fetal systems.

If you suffer from toxemia, and morning sickness prevents you from enjoying your pregnancy, just be patient. These unpleasant symptoms should go away at the beginning of the second trimester.

To ease your condition:

  • Eat some dry bread and drink some water before getting out of bed
  • Choose simple, preferably warm, dishes
  • During the day, try to drink more water; you can also prepare a dried fruit or rosehip drink (in total, your daily intake should be about 0.5 gal (2 l).

Second trimester

The child begins to grow actively; their internal organs start to develop. The mother will need about 300 additional kcal per day.

During this period, proteins and minerals are important for the baby: calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, potassium, etc.

Many pregnant women at this stage suffer from constipation. To relieve your condition, you need to eat more foods rich in fiber: fresh vegetables, greens, fruits, and cereals. They should make up 2/3 of your diet.

It is also important to drink enough water and stay physically active. The daily amount of liquid should be at least 0.5–0.7 gal (2–2.5 l).

You are quite likely to face heartburn. To cope with the unpleasant burning sensation in the esophagus, it is better to divide your daily amount of food into small portions.

It is advisable to avoid sweets and coffee, fatty, salty and spicy food. Fresh carrots and alkaline mineral water can also help to relieve heartburn. It is better to eat stewed meat and vegetables.

If you want to prevent edema, cut down on salt. 

Third trimester

The baby gains weight actively. After week 32, you need to cut down on simple carbohydrates and animal fats.

It is still important to get enough:

  • Calcium for the bones and the nervous system of the fetus
  • Vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids for the development of the baby’s internal systems.

Essential nutrients during pregnancy

Protein

Experts recommend 75–100 g of protein a day. It contributes to the development of the fetal tissues, including the brain, and is necessary for your breast and uterine tissue to grow as well as to increase blood supply.

To get the recommended amount, you need to eat 2–3 servings of protein products of animal origin daily (1 serving is about 3 oz/85 g). It can be:

  • Meat: lean beef, lamb, pork, or rabbit
  • Poultry: turkey meat, or chicken
  • Beef liver
  • Fish or seafood.

Try to eat various fish and if possible, choose premium species of the Northern seas: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and herring.

Thus, you will provide yourself and your baby with native protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which will positively affect your child’s mental development.

You should avoid fish containing high levels of mercury, such as tuna.

These are some vegetable sources of protein (1 serving is about 1/2 cup, or 4.2 fl oz/125 ml):

  • Tofu
  • Legumes: red and white beans, chickpeas, or lentils
  • Snake bean.

Calcium

The daily requirement for calcium is about 1000 mg. It helps build the bone system, future teeth, nervous system, heart, and muscles of the baby.

The microelements from cereals, legumes, and nuts will be better absorbed if you soak them in warm water overnight. This will reduce the phytic acid content, which binds minerals in plant products and impedes their absorption in the intestine. When soaked, phytase enzyme is produced that neutralizes phytic acid.

To get the recommended daily amount of calcium, you can consume 3–4 servings of the following products (the size of one serving is indicated in parentheses):

  • Milk (1 glass)
  • Yogurt (1 cup, or 8.5 fl oz/250 ml)
  • Cheese (about 40 g)
  • Eggs (1)
  • Sesame (1 tsp)
  • Tofu (1/2 cup, or 4.2 fl oz/125 ml)
  • Legumes: white beans, lentils, or chickpeas (1/2 cup)
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts, or Brazilian (⅓ cup, or 2.9 fl oz/85 ml). These should be soaked before eating for 8–12 hours, which promotes the absorption of nutrients.
  • Poultry or fish (3 oz/85 g)
  • Leafy greens (1 cup).

For calcium to be properly absorbed, you need vitamin D and magnesium that you can get from sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, hazelnuts, and pine nuts. It is also important to know that caffeine can increase the loss of calcium through the urine.

pregnant woman drinks milk to get calcium

Iron

Iron helps to carry oxygen to your growing baby, as well as to your muscles, helping to fight fatigue and irritability.
Experts recommend about 27 mg of iron per day.

Examples of iron sources containing the daily requirement:

  • 2–3 servings of products of animal origin (1 serving is about 3 oz/85 g): meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
  • 2–3 servings of green leafy vegetables (1 serving is 1 cup, or 8.5 fl oz/250 ml): spinach, arugula, salad, cabbage.
  • 3 servings of whole grain bread (1 serving is 1 slice).

Folic acid

Folic acid plays a key role in fetal blood formation and is crucial for the normal development of the neural tube. Experts recommend 600–800 mcg of folic acid every day.

To get the daily requirement, you can eat:

  • Beef liver (1 serving is about 3 oz/85 g)
  • 2 servings of dark green leafy vegetables (1 serving is 1 cup, or 8.5 fl oz/250 ml)
  • 3 servings of whole-grain bread (1 serving is 1 slice)
  • 2 portions of legumes (1 serving is 1/2 cup, or 4.2 fl oz/125 ml).

Vitamin C

Fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C will contribute to building the teeth and bones of your little one as well as boosting their metabolic processes. Experts recommend at least 85 mg of vitamin C per day.

The daily requirement of vitamin C is contained in 3 servings of fruit or vegetables (1 serving is 1/2 cup, or 4.2 fl oz/125 ml):

  • Kiwi fruit
  • Strawberry
  • Lemon
  • Mango
  • Grapefruit
  • Melon
  • Pepper
  • Tomato
  • Potato
  • Leafy greens.
pregnant woman with two plates

Fats and oils

Healthy fats and oils are crucial for the nervous system of the baby, the synthesis of hormones and some enzymes, as well as for the absorption of lipid-soluble vitamins. You should consume 6 tsp of fats and oils a day.

The best sources of fats and oils are:

  • Fatty fish
  • Avocado
  • Canola oil
  • Olive, safflower oil
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Olives.

Sample one-day menu for an expectant mother (around 2000 kcal)

Breakfast

  • Two hard-boiled eggs
  • Arugula, pepper, and avocado salad with olive oil, lemon juice and grated lemon peel — 1 cup
  • Whole-grain toast with cheese
  • A cup of tea.

Sync Flo with other health apps to track what you eat

Flo can be synchronized with other health apps, e.g. Lifesum, for you to get better control over your pregnancy diet.

Snack (if you're hungry)

  • Yogurt — 1 cup
  • Raspberry — 1/2 cup.

Lunch

  • Baked poultry — 3–4 oz (85–115 g)
  • Green beans and broccoli — 1 cup
  • Brown rice — 1 cup
  • Green herb, cucumber, and sesame seed salad with olive oil — 1 cup
  • Whole-grain bread — 1–2 slices
  • A cup of milk.

Snack

Carrot sticks with hummus — 1 cup.

nutrition tips for pregnant women

Dinner

Baked trout — 3–4 oz (85–11 g)
Leafy greens and tomato salad with olive oil — 1 cup
Lentils — 0.5–1 cup
Half a grapefruit.

Snack (if you're hungry)

  • A slice of cheese — 1–1.4 oz (30–40 g)
  • A cup of herbal tea.

Bottom line

Many expectant mothers wonder: if I'm craving fast food during pregnancy, can I treat myself? 

If you normally stick to a healthy and balanced diet and just occasionally let yourself eat refined dishes, it will do little harm.

Try to prepare healthy dishes of different consistencies, use spices, and ensure protein balance. Doing so will make you less likely to crave junk food.

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