During pregnancy, the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same: get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. A balanced diet will promote your baby’s growth and development. Below are a few nutrients that deserve special attention.
Key Nutrients to a Balanced Diet
Key nutrients to a healthy diet for you and your baby include iron, calcium, Vitamin D, protein, and folic acid, and folate.
Folate and Folic Acid
Folic acid and folate help prevent birth defects. Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects and serious brain and spinal cord abnormalities. The synthetic form of folate found in supplements and fortified foods is folic acid. Folic acid supplementation has been shown to decrease the risk of premature birth.
Daily Allowance: 400 to 1,000 micrograms a day of folate or folic acid before conception and throughout pregnancy
Sources: Fortified cereals are great sources of folic acid. Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, and peas are reliable sources of naturally occurring folate.
Special Note: Taking a daily prenatal vitamin, starting three months before conception, can help ensure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient. All women who might become pregnant should take a daily vitamin supplement containing folic acid.
Calcium strengthens bones. You and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems run normally.
Daily Allowance: 1,000 milligrams a day; pregnant teenagers need 1,300 milligrams a day.
Sources: Dairy products are the best-absorbed sources of calcium. Nondairy sources include broccoli and kale. Many fruit juices and breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium.
Vitamin D promotes bone strength. It also helps build your baby’s bones and teeth.
Daily Allowance: 600 international units (IU) a day
Sources: Fatty fish, such as salmon, is a major source of vitamin D. Other options include fortified milk and orange juice.
Protein promotes growth. It is crucial for your baby’s growth throughout pregnancy.
Daily Allowance: 71 grams a day
Sources: Lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are great protein sources in a balanced diet. Other options include beans and peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
Iron prevents iron deficiency anemia. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. You need double the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need during pregnancy. Your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby.
You could develop iron deficiency anemia if you don’t have enough iron stores or get enough iron during pregnancy. Severe iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy increases your risk of premature birth, having a low-birth-weight baby, and postpartum depression.
Daily Allowance: 27 milligrams a day
Sources: Lean red meat, poultry, and fish are good sources of iron. Other options include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, beans, and vegetables.
Supplements for a Balanced Diet
When you eat a healthy diet, you can still miss key nutrients. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin, ideally starting at least three months before conception, can help fill in any gaps. Your health care provider might recommend special supplements if you follow a strict vegetarian diet or have a chronic health condition. If you’re considering taking an herbal supplement during pregnancy, consult your health care provider first. Some herbal supplements might be harmful to your pregnancy.
Do you have concerns or questions about a pregnancy diet? Contact Creekside Center for Women to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.