Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful experiences in life, but it also comes with great responsibilities. You are no longer alone as you need to take care of two people. Diet and the nutrients you eat play an important role in your baby's growth and development.
Eating for two
One of the biggest misconceptions is that eating two people automatically means you have to eat twice as much. If you are of a healthy weight and are not carrying twins or triplets, doubling your food intake will be completely unnecessary and will only lead to excessive weight gain, which in turn can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.
Although your baby and your growing body will need additional nutrients, they can count on the support of Mother Nature. Your body has been programmed to be more efficient during pregnancy, allowing it to absorb more nutrients from the foods you eat.
Thanks to this high efficiency, you don't need any extra calories in the first trimester and only about 340-450 extra calories per day in the second and third trimesters (according to the Institute of Medicine).
Changing nutritional needs
Does this mean that you should not change anything at all? No. When you are pregnant, your nutritional needs will change and eating healthy foods will be more important than ever.
There are a number of nutrients that are particularly important during (and before) pregnancy, namely:
- Folic acid, which helps reduce the risk of premature birth
- Calcium, which builds strong bones and teeth and helps the muscular, circulatory and nervous systems function normally
- Vitamin D which also helps build your baby's bones and teeth
- Protein that promotes your baby's growth (especially during the second and third trimesters)
- Iron, which helps prevent anemia
Although eat a healthy, balanced diet consisting of dairy products, meat, fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. It will provide most of these nutrients, it is still recommended to take a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement.
These supplements (whether as tablets or formulas) have been developed to meet the unique nutritional needs of pregnant women and will help you obtain adequate levels of these essential nutrients.
What foods should be avoided during pregnancy?
There are certain foods that should be avoided during pregnancy
- Soft cheese and other unpasteurized dairy products
Soft cheese and other unpasteurized dairy products have not been sterilized (heated) and can therefore harbor listeria bacteria. These bacteria can be dangerous or even life-threatening to you and your baby and should be avoided at all costs.
Always check the ingredients list and tell the waiter that you are pregnant when you go out to eat
- Raw or undercooked meat and poultry
Raw or undercooked meat and poultry can contain a variety of bacteria that can harm an unborn baby. Make sure meat and poultry are fully cooked to kill these harmful bacteria before eating them.
Whole cuts should have a cooking temperature of at least 62 degrees Celsius, ground meat such as hamburgers should be 70 degrees Celsius, and poultry such as chicken breast should be 74 degrees Celsius.
- Fish and seafood (raw)
Raw fish and seafood are a source of potentially harmful bacteria and parasites and should be completely avoided during pregnancy (including sushi).
Fish in general often contains traces of a metal called methylmercury, which in high doses is harmful to the developing brains of fetuses and young children. Therefore, fish should be limited to two servings per week, as a maximum.
Even a small amount of alcohol can be harmful to your fetus, hence it is best to avoid all forms of alcohol during pregnancy completely.
Research has shown that a moderate amount of caffeine is safe during pregnancy. However, there is still debate as to whether this also applies to higher amounts of caffeine or if it increases the chance of miscarriage.
Just to be safe, you might consider limiting your caffeine consumption to around 200mg per day (about one 12-ounce cup of coffee). Keep in mind that caffeine doesn't just come from coffee, it's also found in tea, chocolate, soda, and energy drinks.