Think about the foods you have in your kitchen right now. Could you make a healthy meal with them? What about a whole day’s worth of nutritious meals and snacks? When you’re eating for two, it can be even more challenging with so much conflicting information. Is meat okay for protein or it too fatty? Are eggs all right or are they too high in cholesterol? Is fish allowed at all because of the dangers of mercury? It’s enough to make you want to stick with comfort foods – as unhealthy as they may be – and stock your pantry with candy bars.
Many people want to eat better, and for pregnant women it can be a nerve-wracking responsibility. They know they should eat better but they sabotage their own efforts by not having healthy options available. One of the first steps in eating healthily is healthy grocery shopping. It can be a bit intimidating – there are so many choices, and new items appear every day.
That said, most doctors agree that the best foods for pregnant women are eggs, (amazing for protein and you can substitute egg whites if you are concerned about cholesterol), beans, salmon (which is great for omega-3 fats but very low in methylmercury), walnuts, dark green vegetables, lean meats, whole grains (including popcorn!) and colorful fruits and veggies. Of course, if you are a vegetarian or have food intolerances, definitely speak to your doctor about developing a healthy eating plan. Most pregnant women can benefit from taking a prenatal vitamin, which acts as insurance to make sure you and your baby get all the crucial nutrients.
Here are some additional tips to help you navigate the supermarket:
- Make a grocery list. Before you go shopping, write out a weekly menu and use it to create a grocery list. Be sure to take inventory of what you already have at home, so you don’t make unnecessary purchases.
- Shop the perimeter of the store. The staples of a healthy diet are usually located on the outside aisles. Fill your cart with the freshest and most nutritious foods first, and you’ll have less room for items found in the middle aisles.
- Never shop on an empty stomach. Walking through the aisles while your stomach is growling makes it difficult to stick to your list. Shop after a meal or have a healthy snack before you go.
Nutrition Facts Label
Understanding food labels is an important weight management skill. When you’re at the grocery store, you can look at Nutrition Facts labels to see how (or if) foods fit into your healthy eating plan. You can also use them to compare the nutritional content of similar products and then choose the best option.
At first, information included on food labels can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s what to look for:
- Serving size: The first thing to look for when reading a Nutrition Facts label is the serving size and the number of servings in a package. To make it easier, serving sizes are generally based on standard measurements such as cups and ounces. Serving sizes can be misleading though. Many packages contain more than one serving, but the nutrition information listed is based on only one serving. That means, if you eat two servings, you need to double the number of calories and the other nutrients listed.
- Calories: This part of the label tells you how many calories are in one serving. Together with the serving size and servings per package, this is the most important section of the Nutrition Facts label. For the first six months of your pregnancy, you won’t need to increase your daily amount of calories; you will still need approximately 2,000 calories a day. But during your third trimester, you’ll need an average of an extra 200 calories per day (If you’re expecting twins, it can be even higher). You may crave fats and sweets during your pregnancy, and while giving in occasionally is fine, at home, try stocking up on pitas and hummus, dried apricots, cottage cheese, muesli, and low-fat yogurts.
- Fiber: During pregnancy, you need fiber more than ever to keep your body running smoothly and to decrease heartburn and indigestion. Consuming dietary fiber can also help you feel full longer after a meal. The fiber content of food is listed on the Nutrition Facts label under “Total Carbohydrate”. Use this information to choose high fiber foods within your calorie target. Regardless of pregnancy, women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, and pregnant women should aim for 35 grams.