When Delivery Means More Than Just A Meal: Differentiating Between ‘Table For Two’ And ‘Eating For Two’
We all know that a pregnant woman is supposed to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. But what does that really entail? What should you eat when you’re expecting? How much should you eat? What should you avoid?
You Get To Eat More, For Sure
Typically, you need to consume an additional 300 calories a day when you’re going to have a baby. These extra calories are part of a healthy eating regimen to help promote your baby’s growth and development.
Of course, eating more when you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you’ll always feel full. And, interestingly, your baby actually might kick more when you (and, therefore, your baby) are hungry—or if your blood sugar level drops.
These Foods Should Be High On Your List When You’re Expecting
To do what’s best for you and baby, maintain a healthy and balanced diet, and avoid bingeing as much as possible. To that end, here’s a list of best foods to eat during pregnancy:
- Lean meat and other proteins – High-protein foods stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce hunger pangs. Try to have three servings (or about 75 grams) of protein daily.
- Lentils and other legumes – These are your best choices for plant-based proteins if you are wanting to limit or eliminate meat. You can remain vegetarian or vegan while pregnant, but it requires a very intentional and well-planned diet.
- Yogurt, low-fat milk and other dairy – Dairy products deliver casein and whey, both of which are high-quality protein sources. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium and great for getting your phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc.
- Wild salmon and other low-mercury fish – Fish and shellfish have healthy fats that are good for you and your baby. But watch out for higher mercury content.
- Avocado, carrots, red bell peppers, kale, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes – You need all your required vitamins, minerals, and fiber—and vegetables (especially these ones) are a key part. Avocados also are a source of healthy fats, which help you absorb vitamins and keep you feeling fuller.
- Mangoes, bananas, berries, dried fruit – These fruits also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And think of dried fruit as a healthier substitute for empty-calorie candy.
- Whole grains – Cereal grains (such as barley, brown rice, corn, oat, rye and wheat) and pseudocereal grains (such as buckwheat, chia and quinoa) are a great source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Just avoid refined grains.
- Eggs – Touted as both “the healthiest food on the planet” and “nature’s multivitamin,” eggs can’t be beat (unless you’re vegan, of course).
- Nuts – High in protein, nuts have a special benefit: Research shows that nut consumption when pregnant helps the baby’s motor and cognitive development later.
Also critical is drinking enough water. When you’re pregnant, your blood volume increases about 45%, making hydration all the more important. Water helps you absorb all the nutrients you’re trying to get from food. Aim for eight to 10 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
Limit Or Avoid These Foods If You’re Pregnant
When you’re expecting, you and your baby are more vulnerable to the potential negatives in many foods. Here are some to limit or avoid:
- Limit caffeine
- Avoid alcohol
- Stay away from fatty and high-mercury fish
- Don’t eat unpasteurized food or raw meats (sorry, but that means no sushi)
- Eliminate soft cheeses such as feta and blue
Does The Baby Taste The Foods You Eat?
You might be wondering whether the baby has any sense of sweet, sour, or spicy. Actually, the baby’s taste buds begin developing as early as 13 weeks, and he or she can taste strong flavors (such as garlic or curry) through the amniotic fluid.
Amazingly, tastes and food memory begin to shape before birth. Studies indicate that what a woman eats during pregnancy may shape a baby’s eating preferences later.
What To Eat After Your Baby Is Born
Scientists say the nutritional quality of your breast milk stays roughly the same regardless of what you consume. But here’s the rub: If you don’t get enough of a particular nutrient for both of you, your body gives it to the baby and you get short-changed (kind of the opposite of what flight attendants have been telling us for years during the pre-flight safety instructions of helping ourselves first.)
So, it’s doubly important to make sure you get all the same nutrients as when you were pregnant. And you’ll still want to avoid alcohol and limit caffeine if you’re breastfeeding.
Remember that you’ll need to keep up your energy stores, so don’t cut the protein intake yet. If you’re frustrated with that remaining baby weight and thinking about dieting, avoid fad diets and quick-loss programs. Instead, help your body recover by sticking to a sensible routine that is ripe with healthy and delicious options.
Good nutrition is essential for you and your baby. But giving in to occasional cravings isn’t necessarily all that bad. Just make sure you’re not making a habit out of poor eating choices for you and your baby.
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