Pregnancy is an exciting time for parents to be. However, between nausea, heartburn and food restrictions, feeling like your best self can be a challenge. Nutrition plays an important role throughout all three trimesters, and eating well can help give you the energy you need, and keep you and your baby healthy. While it is a myth that you have to eat enough for two, it is important that you meet your calorie needs.
During the first trimester your calorie needs will be the same as they were pre pregnancy. During the second trimester you will need about 300-350 additional calories per day and during the third trimester an additional 400-450 calories per day. Adding nutritious snacks to your day is an easy way to meet these additional calories. Eating small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day instead of three larger meals not only will help you reach your calorie needs, but can also help with nausea, and heartburn.
Snack sizes will vary depending on your hunger, and on your diet throughout the rest of the day. When planning snacks I recommend trying to incorporate multiple food groups. For example, some snack ideas to try include plain greek yogurt with berries, trail mix, string cheese with fruit and/or whole grain crackers, hummus with vegetables and/or whole grain crackers, hard boiled eggs with vegetables, whole grain crackers with a mashed avocado, and whole wheat bread with nut butter and fruit.
Nutrients to focus on
Varying your diet, and including multiple food groups at both meals and snacks will help you reap the nutritional benefits of many vitamins and minerals. While many different vitamins and minerals are important to focus on during pregnancy, some important ones to pay attention to include calcium, folate, iron and choline.
Iron is important because it is a component of hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to all of your tissues. During pregnancy a women’s blood volume increases which is why it is important to consume enough iron in your diet. Including meats, fish, poultry, beans, lentils and iron fortified breads in the diet will contribute to a pregnant women’s iron needs. Pairing iron sources with sources of vitamin C such as tomatoes, potatoes and citrus fruits will aid in iron absorption, so I recommend including sources of vitamin C with meals.
Calcium is important during pregnancy because of the growing skeleton of the fetus. Some ways to include calcium in your diet include drinking milk or milk alternatives, eating yogurt or yogurt alternatives, and cheeses. Using milk or milk alternatives in recipes such as scrambled eggs, oatmeal, pancakes and smoothies will also help you meet your calcium needs.
Adequate folate is needed to prevent neural tube defects. Green leafy vegetables and legumes are sources of natural folate and many breads and cereals are fortified with the synthetic form of it.
Choline is important during pregnancy for both brain development and spinal cord formation. Some sources of choline include eggs, fish, beef, chicken, milk and wheat germ.
Don’t forget to hydrate too as adequate hydration is important for pregnancy. Adequate fluids can also help constipation and to prevent nausea since dehydration can make nausea worse. Try adding fruit to your water for flavor if you have trouble drinking water on its own during pregnancy.
While a healthy diet is important for pregnant women, I also recommend that most pregnant women take a prenatal multivitamin and a DHA supplement since even a healthy diet might miss some essential nutrients.
A registered dietitian can help
Eating well during pregnancy can be confusing. If you are wondering if you are eating the best diet for your pregnancy a dietitian can help! A dietitian can help you understand what you can and cannot eat, help you plan a diet around nausea, constipation and indigestion and make sure you are meeting your nutrition needs.