One of the best gifts you can give your baby is to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. A well-balanced diet includes protein, vegetables, fruits, healthy fat, dairy, and complex carbohydrates. Good nutrition is essential for normal organ development and functioning of you and baby. Healthy, balanced nutrition helps prevent disease, repair stress and damage, and even influences genetic expression!
Dr. Tom Brewer found through more than 30 years of research that each day, pregnant women need a well-balanced, high-quality diet that includes 80 to 100 grams of protein, adequate salt (to taste), and water (to thirst), as well as calories from all of the food groups.
What should I eat?
- 2 to 3 servings of meat, fish, nuts or legumes, and tofu
- 2 to 3 servings of dairy (milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese)
- 2 servings of green vegetables; 1 serving of a yellow vegetable
- 3 servings of fruit
- salt to taste
- 6 to 8 glasses of clean, filtered water each day.
- 3 servings of whole grain breads, cereals, or other high-complex carbohydrates (optional)
While this may seem like a lot of food, it will supply the 2000 to 3000 calories needed per day to make a healthy baby.
Good Sources of Nutrients
Protein: chicken, fish, beef, pork, turkey, tofu, nuts, legumes (beans), milk, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whole grains, wheat gluten, soy cheese
Whole grains: brown rice, kasha (buckwheat), whole oats, whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, quinoa, wild rice, wheat gluten, wheat germ, whole wheat pastas
Fruits: strawberries, kiwi, apples, oranges, bananas, mangos, cantaloupe, pears, grapefruit, plums, nectarines, grapes, peaches
Green vegetables: spinach, broccoli, zucchini, dark green lettuces, kale, Swiss chard, green beans, asparagus, arugula, lambs lettuce
Dairy: milk, yogurt, hard cheese, cottage cheese
Other good whole foods: baked potatoes with skin, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, green peas, corn
Iron: red meats, organ meats, eggs, fish poultry, blackstrap molasses, cherry juice, green leafy vegetables, dried fruits (raisins, apricots, etc.)
Zinc: pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, sunflower seeds, seafood, organ meats, mushrooms, brewer’s yeast, soybeans, eggs, wheat germ, meats, turkey
Folic acid: spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, lima beans, soybeans, organ meats, brewer’s yeast, root vegetables, whole grains, wheat germ, bulghur wheat, kidney beans, white beans, salmon, orange juice, avocado, milk
A study conducted at Harvard University found that by eating at least 75 grams of protein per day, pregnant women could prevent diseases of pregnancy such as preeclampsia (metabolic toxemia of late pregnancy). During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume increases as much as 40 to 60 percent, and in order to reach this necessary level and maintain it, a woman’s body needs adequate protein, salt, calcium, potassium and water from her diet. In April of 1996 the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article indicating that calcium may also help reduce the incidence of preeclampsia. Other recent research indicates that pregnant women need adequate folic acid (a B vitamin) to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. The Food and Drug Administration now recommends that breads and pastas be fortified with folic acid to ensure that all women of childbearing age get enough of it. Four hundred micrograms of folic acid a day is recommended. This can be obtained by eating whole grain breads, citrus fruits and dark green leafy vegetables.
As long as junk food and excessive sweets (sugar) are avoided, or kept to a minimum, weight gain should not be an issue. The diet listed above (or something similar) should provide all of the necessary nutrients, and a woman should have little problem obtaining everything she needs. A “whole food” is one that is unprocessed and is as close to its natural state as possible. While vitamin supplements are very popular these days, there are risks to taking supplements of certain vitamins while pregnant (i.e., vitamin A), and others are simply poorly assimilated (i.e., calcium or iron). The B vitamins, for example, must be taken in congress (B complex supplement), as absences, insufficiencies or excesses of one or another can cause problems. Check with your care provider before taking anything while pregnant. Vitamins and minerals should be obtained from natural, whole sources whenever possible, to ensure quality and proper assimilation by the body. A qualified nutritional expert should assess special dietary needs.
Cravings for foods are common in pregnancy and, in theory, can indicate a need or deficit in a diet. Cravings for healthy foods can be indulged, but cravings for non-food substances such as clay or laundry starch, a condition known as “pica,” can be harmful and should be reported to your care provider.
Milk, eggs and other dairy products are inexpensive sources of calcium and protein. For those who are vegetarian, or simply to provide variety in an omnivorous diet, soy products, beans and nuts can be substituted. Dark green vegetables provide carbohydrates, water, bulk fiber, vitamins A, C, and B, calcium, iron, and magnesium; the darker green, the better. Cooking leafy greens makes the nutrients more bio-available to your body. Citrus and berry fruits provide a great deal of vitamin C, and yellow fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupe, sweet potato, carrots and mango are good sources of vitamin A. Both of these vitamins are important for fighting infection, boosting the immune system, cell structure development and preventing placental detachment (abruption). Zinc is another important mineral for pregnant women, as it aids in supporting the immune system. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, zinc also helps to improve birth weight and certain aspects of fetal development.
Vegetarian or vegan diets can a good, healthy choice when well balanced. Without animal protein, you may have to work harder to obtain all the protein needed to increase your blood supply, build the baby, and maintain your own body. However, it is certainly possible with diligence for most people.