If you start eating healthy before pregnancy it becomes much easier to make a few minor adjustments to your diet when you become pregnant. This is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. If this isn't the case, hopefully you'll know right away when you become pregnant so you can make the necessary changes to your eating habits as early as possible. We know this is not always the case. The important thing is to make those changes as soon as you find out your pregnant to have a healthier pregnancy.
The first few weeks of your pregnancy are when your baby will go through some rapid development and growth. This can be a very vulnerable time and the reason why it's recommended to begin eating healthy whether you're planning to become pregnant or not, especially with almost half of all pregnancies being unplanned. Another possible complication to healthy eating in the first trimester is the nausea that many pregnant women face. The most important factors during this time are to prevent dehydration and malnutrition.
Adequate folic acid can help prevent neurological defects, such as spina bifida. You'll want to increase your folic acid intake, but too much can cause risks of their own so it's best to talk to your midwife or doctor.
Quit smoking. Whether you smoke, or are exposed to secondhand smoke, you will be at a greater risk of delivering a small baby with a low birth weight.
Alcohol and caffeine can negatively impact a fetus, so reduce or eliminate them from your diet. Try water instead of drinks loaded with sweeteners and artificial flavors. Our bodies are about 70% water so water makes the most sense. For another option, try the healthy Coconut Water drinks on the market. Again you'll want to avoid artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors. Don't confuse coconut milk for coconut water as they are completely different. Coconut milk is created from the coconut meat, while a young coconut is filled with coconut “water.” High in electrolytes it's a great alternative to sugary sports' drinks.
You're not really “eating for two” in the sense of calories, so don't start doubling your daily. Try to consume about 300 more calories than usual every day. Listen to your body and eat when you are hungry. Eating every few hours can help you with some of your nausea by keeping something in your stomach at all times. Don't let it get empty.
Protein can greatly help feelings of fatigue and nausea in pregnant women. Blood sugars remain more stable compared to the effects of sugar and carbohydrates which can regulate your energy levels. Find a protein that works for you, but aim to intake at least 70 grams of protein per day. The only protein to be watchful for is seafood with higher mercury levels like shark, swordfish, tilefish and mackerel. Typically the larger predatory fish have higher mercury levels. Safe fish that are high in healthy fats and low in mercury include rainbow trout (farm raised), sardines, whitefish and salmon (wild or farm raised).
In addition to nausea, many pregnant women face constipation. Uncomfortable and preventable, avoid constipation and start adding fiber to your diet. Whole grains, fruits, and even vegetables can be a great source of fiber.
As many women have a bit of iron deficiency, you'll want to add iron to your diet when pregnant. Meats and dark leafy vegetables are good sources. Try to avoid iron supplements as they can cause constipation, diarrhea or cramping.
When you reach your second trimester you'll want to increase your calcium intake. You'll need around 1,500 milligrams. This is missing from many diets and can be added with dairy products, calcium tablets, and even calcium fortified juices on the market.
You are your baby's only source of nutrition so eating healthfully when pregnant just makes sense. Hopefully these tips can help you get started on making smart and healthy choices in your eating habits to promote your baby's growth and development. Make every bite count.