The foundation of a healthy pregnancy
A healthy pregnancy begins in the kitchen. It's true that each aspect of your lifestyle will contribute to your wellbeing and overall pregnancy experience, but what you take into your body has a direct influence on your baby's development. Keep in mind that whatever you eat or drink will cross the placenta to nourish your growing baby, and the absence of certain nutrients can deprive the fetus of vital nutritional support. The health and wellbeing of your baby is in your hands -- and what they reach for.
Why Water is Important
It is very critical to get extra fluids, especially water, during pregnancy. Water can help prevent some common pregnancy discomforts, including constipation, hemorrhoids, excessive swelling (edema) and even urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Consuming an adequate amount of water will also prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Dehydration during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester, can lead to uterine contractions and possibly pre-term labor. The extra fluid in your body will also help with making amniotic fluid and will feed your increased blood volume. Doctors recommend that you drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
Fruits and Vegetables
In pregnancy, a woman should eat at least seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day (three servings of fruit and four of vegetables). Not only will fresh produce deliver the nutrients that your growing baby needs, it will help your body function more efficiently and help keep your mood steady.
A serving of fruit might be: 1/2 cup chopped, cooked, dried or canned fruit (without syrup); 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear; 3/4 cup fruit juice; 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce; or 3/4 cup grapes. A serving of vegetables might be: 1 medium-sized baked potato; 1/2 cup vegetables (cooked or raw), such as broccoli or carrots; 3/4 cup vegetable juice; or 1 cup raw leafy salad greens. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible (organic is best).
Whole-grain Breads, Cereals and Pasta
Carbohydrates are very important for energy, especially now that your body needs more each day. If you stick to unrefined grains, you'll also get a good dose of fiber -- something your sluggish digestive system needs more than ever. Try to include some whole grains in every meal to feel full and energetic for hours.
You will need 6 to 11 servings of whole grain breads, cereals and pasta every day. A serving might be: 1/2 cup cooked pasta, 1/2 cup cooked whole-grain cereal, 1/2 cup brown or wild rice, 1 large corn tortilla, 1 slice whole-grain bread, 1/2 bagel, about 2 cups ready-to-eat cereal, 1 medium muffin, 1/2 hot dog or hamburger bun or 4 small crackers.
Meats, Fish and Beans
Protein provides materials for building and growing tissues and muscles, including the placenta, as well as for fortifying the blood -- yours as well as your baby's.
Protein also helps build your baby's brains cells and is a critical part of proper brain development. Protein is found in animal and dairy products, such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk and cottage cheese. Other sources of protein include dried beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, cereals, pasta, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, peas and grains.
Three to four servings of meats, fish and beans every day is essential. A serving might be: 2 tablespoons peanut butter; 1/2 cup cooked (dry) beans; 1/2 cup tofu; 1/3 cup nuts; 2 to 3 ounces cooked lean meat, poultry or fish (a piece of chicken or a hamburger patty about the size of the palm of your hand); or 2 cooked eggs. There are specific fish a pregnant woman needs to stay away from and others that need to be eaten in minimal amounts. Seafood and pregnancy can be a dangerous mix, but some fish and shellfish is perfectly safe. Make sure any fish you consume is safe and well-cooked, taking into consideration the species, the freshness and the area where it came from.
Although some fats can quickly push up your calorie intake and speed up your weight gain, others are essential for a healthy pregnancy. You'll want to increase the amount of "good" fats you take in order to stimulate and support your baby's brain and eye development.
Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like canola oil, olives, nuts and avocado. These types of fats are best at lowering bad cholesterol levels, and they contain helpful antioxidants. Polyunsaturated fats are even more beneficial in pregnancy, as the omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and ALA that they carry are directly related to brain growth and healthy behavior patterns in your child, during pregnancy and after birth. Be sure to include foods like flax seed oil, cold water fish, fortified eggs and walnuts in your daily diet to reap the greatest rewards.