Looking to support a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby? During pregnancy, a woman’s body creates an environment in which an entire human being is formed. What could be more amazing than that? As the new mom-to-be strives to protect the integrity of the womb in which her baby will develop, she needs to make good lifestyle choices and commit to high-quality food and nutrients. Here’s some important information to help achieve those goals.
PREGNANCY NUTRITION ESSENTIALS
Here are some pregnancy nutrition essentials to support a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby. Daily requirements for macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), vitamins, and minerals change dramatically in pregnancy and are crucial to the health of mom and her developing baby. For most normal-weight pregnant women, the right amount of calories is about . . .
- 1,800 calories per day during the first trimester.
- 2,200 calories per day during the second trimester.
- 2,400 calories per day during the third trimester.
These calories should be acquired from a variety of whole grains, fruits and veggies as well as eggs, lean cuts of meat and poultry, and low-mercury fish, such as tilapia or salmon. (Vegetarians and vegans will have dietary considerations to discuss with their holistic doctor in order to ensure they meet their caloric and nutrient needs.) During pregnancy it’s particularly important that food is sourced organic, verified non-GMO and antibiotic-free to ensure chemicals are not passed along to the baby.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPORT FOR A HEALTHY PREGNANCY FOR MOM AND BABY
Here are some tips for meeting pregnancy nutrient requirements.
Pregnant women need 75 – 100 grams of protein daily. Good sources of protein include:
- fully cooked fish
- lean meat
- legumes (black beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.)
- plain yogurt (if not allergic or sensitive to dairy) with added fresh fruit.
If you find it challenging to eat high-quality sources of protein, speak with your doctor about using protein powder to make smoothies (or to add to yogurt or oatmeal).
CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS
Consuming adequate fats is vital to baby’s organ and brain development. Focus on healthy sources such as avocado, nuts and nut oils, olive oil, coconut, eggs, low-fat plain yogurt (if not allergic or sensitive to dairy) with fresh fruit.
SNACK ON VEGGIES AND FRUITS
Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies helps curb cravings, boost energy, and provide essential fiber, vitamins and minerals (calcium, vitamin C, folic acid, and others). Ideally, eat veggies raw or steamed; also consider fermented veggies.
DRINK MORE WATER
A woman’s blood volume increases during pregnancy and her body has to supply fluid to replenish the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. Drinking water is important for hydration levels and may help with morning sickness and prevent constipation. The amount of water needed varies by activity level, climate, food consumption; an average rule of thumb is to drink 1/2 body weight in ounces.
GO FOR WHOLE GRAINS
The carbohydrates provided by whole grains are your body’s primary source of energy. Grains also provide B vitamins and fiber. Ancient Grains (such as millet, flax, farro, oat, and quinoa) are an excellent source of whole grains. Choose fresh-baked breads; opt for whole grain crackers, pasta, and brown rice.
CONSUME FERMENTED FOODS
Fermented foods are a potent source of probiotics, which are essential to powering up the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract and producing antibodies to pathogens. Both are key to maintaining vibrant health for mom and baby. Your holistic doctor may recommend a probiotic in lieu of fermented foods.
EAT SMALLER MEALS
Morning sickness, special dietary needs, and other factors can alter the food a woman can tolerate during pregnancy. Many women find eating smaller meals, more frequently, is easier for digestion and managing nausea.
Chemicals in processed foods, caffeine, and sugar can affect the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system, as well as immunity and gut health. Try to avoid (or significantly reduce) your intake of processed/packaged foods, caffeine, and sugary snacks. If you need a caffeinated beverage, opt for green tea over soda and if you drink coffee, keep it to one cup per day.
A prenatal vitamin containing folate is beneficial to many women during pregnancy and many holistic doctors recommend starting it a minimum of three months preconception. A number of other supplements are considered important for mom and developing baby, based on individual needs. Consult your holistic doctor to determine what is safe and best for you.
FOLATE: AN IMPORTANT NUTRIENT FOR PREGNANT WOMEN
You’ve probably heard that folic acid is an important nutrient during pregnancy. However, there’s a misconception around this. And it’s an important one: What you really want is bioactive folate (aka Vitamin B-9). Folic acid is actually a synthetic form of folate and the body has difficulty converting it into the folate needed during pregnancy. Folate is essential during the first several weeks for the development of genetic material, as well as throughout a baby’s growth in the womb.
Low folate levels in pregnant women have been linked to birth abnormalities, such as neural tube defects (NTD), which affect the brain and spinal cord, and congenital heart conditions. While not every type of NTD is linked with low-folate levels (some have other biological causes), the majority can be prevented by taking 400 mcg of folate daily.
The best way to acquire folate is through a diet rich in whole foods, including asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce. It’s not ideal to rely on foods labeled as being “fortified with folic acid.” A dietary supplement (typically 400 mcg) may be necessary in order to ensure sufficient levels during pregnancy. Some women have a MTHFR genetic mutation which may require a special form of folate called 5-Methyl-tetrahydrofolate. If you have questions about the role of or form of folate you need during pregnancy, consult your holistic physician for guidance.
THE INTEGRITY OF THE WOMB
Many chemicals and medicines have unknown risks for the fetus, which can result in birth defects. To protect the integrity of the womb, it’s important for a woman to avoid use of over-the-counter and prescription medicines that are not essential for a health condition. Of course, recreational drugs, alcohol, and smoking are to be avoided. Finally, herbs (botanical medicines) and essential oils should be cleared by your holistic physician before use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
These tips skim the surface of making healthy choices during pregnancy. To address your unique needs, speak with your holistic doctor, obstetrician or midwife about what is best for you and baby during pregnancy.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR SUPPORTING A HEALTHY PREGNANCY FOR MOM AND BABY? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
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