Each trimester will bring a different change to your body so keep the following nutrition tips and advice in mind as your pregnancy progresses.
While pregnancy is almost always synonymous with unrelenting cravings for ice cream or pizza, pregnancy can also be a wonderful time to focus on gaining or re-establishing healthy eating habits. No matter your age, size, or past relationship with food, pregnancy is a catalyst to becoming a healthier person so embrace this moment.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! The first trimester is when a lot of fetal development occurs so it is a critical time to stay healthy and not “eat for two” as the old adage says. In fact, no extra calories are needed during the first trimester but since nausea is a huge issue for many women during the first trimester, you may not have to worry about overeating. In addition to staying away from alcohol, smoking, etc., it is essential that you focus on:
PRENATAL VITAMINS: If you haven’t already started taking prenatal vitamins, start NOW. These vitamins help to give you the requirements you need for fetal growth during pregnancies. Be sure to consult with your OB/GYN on your options.
WATER: If you drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day, then keep it up. If you have been skimping out, now is the time to significantly increase your water intake. Water helps you stay hydrated, prevents bloating, and replenishes the fluid that you will lose on those infamously frequent trips to the restroom.
IRON: Iron helps carry oxygen to all your cells so having a low iron status can and often will make you feel tired (and even irritable). Pregnancy is already tiring enough so make things easier for yourself by incorporating more iron-rich foods in your diet. Some women may need to take an iron supplement if their levels are too low but make sure to consult with your OB/GYN first to discuss your options.
FOLIC ACID: Folic acid is incredibly important for fetal development and a deficiency can put your baby at risk for a neural tube defect called spina bifida. It is especially critical that expectant moms have enough folic acid during the first trimester – when your baby needs it the most!
SMALL SNACKS: Nausea can affect many mother’s during pregnancy— eating frequent small meals or snacks can help to combat the nausea . Crackers, pretzels, and cereals seem to help most women, especially before bed time. Another tip is to have some healthy snacks on your bed stand that you can eat BEFORE you get out of the bed in the morning. This helps a lot of women to counteract the morning sickness that is often triggered by an empty stomach. Just be sure to eat when you can and try to keep it as healthy as you realistically can. Luckily, most nausea goes away by the second trimester.
FOOD DON’TS: While most food is ok to eat when pregnancy, you should avoid undercooked meat, poultry and eggs, raw seafood, and unpasteurized foods. That means you need to be cautious with deli and lunch meats, hot dogs, soft cheeses, seafood and raw foods like sushi. For example, if you are craving a hot dog, make sure it is well-cooked!
With the nausea now at bay, a lot of women start to experience intense cravings during their second trimester. While it is ok to give into to cravings, it is important that you don’t go overboard. Want to indulge and eat a couple of huge slices of pizza on Friday night? Go for it. Want to indulge on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night? Not so much… Moderation really is key. Other things to keep in mind during your second trimester:
SUGAR & CARBS: All women get tested for gestation diabetes during their second trimester. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it is important that you work with a dietitian to help structure a diet and nutrition plan that will help regulate your glucose levels. Do NOT just stop eating sugar and carbohydrates if you have gestational diabetes. That is a myth. Carbohydrates is another word for sugar and you need both to maintain energy for you and your baby throughout your pregnancy! Therefore, work with your OB/GYN and dietician to learn how to maintain your blood glucose levels by eating the right carbohydrates at the right time. Every woman is different so it’s important to figure a plan that works best for you and your baby.
SODIUM: Sodium increases how much water your body holds on to and can increase your blood pressure. Therefore, make sure you are watching the sodium levels in your diet and make sure to drink a lot of water. It may seem counterintuitive but most pregnant women are surprised to learn that drinking more water actually keeps your body from retaining excess water.
CALORIES: In the second and third trimester, you and your baby only need 200-300 extra calories a day! This is equivalent to a snack or a small meal. Not quite the large meal you had in mind right? That’s ok. If you find yourself consuming more calories than this, work with your dietician to come up with a plan that makes you feel more satiated. Remember – we don’t want you hungry! What works for one pregnant women may not work for you so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It’s the final countdown! The end is almost here and many women find that the insatiable cravings from their second trimester are now replaced with gas and heartburn. To help ease these occurrences and with the big day quickly approaching, it is important to not put your nutrition on the back burner. Instead, focus on:
MAINTENANCE: With the level of discomfort increasing and the energy to exercise decreasing, it can be easy to get off track in the third trimester. But do your best to make sure that you are still eating healthy and maintaining your fluid levels.
HEARTBURN: Heartburn during pregnancy can occur due to hormonal changes and the baby pushing up against your stomach. If you are experiencing heartburn, try to eat small frequent meals and avoid foods that are citrusy, heavily fried, or spicy.
You made it mama! The baby is here and you may be eager to lose the baby weight but it usually isn’t that simple. Many women are surprised to learn that their appetite actually increases as they breastfeed. This is completely normal because you need extra calories to keep up with the demand of making breast milk!. Other things to keep in mind as you transition to motherhood
BREAST FEEDING: Lactating moms need 400-500 calories extra a day, which is more than you needed during your pregnancy. This is because you are now making milk for your baby that is full of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Doing this requires eating a good amount of calories so make sure you are eating nutrient rich foods like whole grains, lean protein, and fruits.
MORE WATER: We sound like a broken record but make sure you are keeping up with you water intake as fluid is essential for the production of breast milk.
CAFFEINE: Many women are excited to have that large cup of coffee again but caffeine can actually interfere with the baby’s sleep pattern. So if you can, monitor your baby to see if they are especially sensitive to caffeine as it may mean holding off on those coffee runs for the short-term.
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