As a medical professional and an expectant mother myself, I understand the profound significance of what we eat during pregnancy. Those nine months are a time of tremendous growth and change for both you and your developing baby. It's a period when the body requires an array of nutrients to support the development of vital organs, tissues, and systems. A well-balanced diet can help ensure that both you and your baby receive the necessary nourishment for optimal health. What you put into your body not only nourishes you but also provides essential building blocks for your growing baby. Today, we're going to explore the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, shedding light on what to eat and what to avoid to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
A Day in the Life
Here's a glimpse into my daily diet, filled with foods that I've found not only nourishing but also
Breakfast: I like to start my day with a bowl of full-fat Icelandic yogurt topped with granola and a handful of fresh berries. It's a delicious and satisfying way to kickstart the morning. I prefer Icelandic yogurt as it contains probiotics, those friendly microorganisms that support our gut health. Maintaining a healthy microbiome is essential, and the full-fat, plain versions of this yogurt are typically lower in sugar compared to other yogurts. In addition to the probiotic benefits, dairy contains plenty of calcium, which plays a pivotal role in the formation of the baby's bones and teeth, as well as supporting the mother's bone health during pregnancy and beyond. It's also involved in muscle function and blood clotting. If you're lactose intolerant or following a vegan diet, don't worry; you can still meet your calcium needs through fortified plant-based milk, and leafy greens such as kale and broccoli, almonds, and tofu.
Lunch: My midday meal often consists of leftovers from previous dinners. It's a practical choice that ensures I'm not wasting food, and it's a convenient option for busy days. One thing I like to prioritize is making sure my lunch has plenty of protein. This essential nutrient is the building block for the baby's growing tissues and organs, and it supports the formation of crucial enzymes and hormones. Adequate protein intake is also essential for the mother, helping to maintain her energy levels and supporting the growth and repair of her own body tissues, including the placenta and breast tissue. Incorporating protein-rich foods into your pregnancy diet is a must, and you can find it in a variety of sources. Lean meat like poultry (personally, I prefer turkey over chicken), as well as fish, are excellent animal-based options. Vegetarians and vegans can turn to plant-based sources like beans, lentils, tofu, and quinoa.
Dinner: Dinners are where I get creative. Try to opt for lean meats, poultry, or fish, paired with plenty of veggies. Salmon is a great option, as it contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are crucial for the development of the baby's brain and eyes. We don’t make this fatty acid ourselves, we have to get it from food or supplements and the baby craves a LOT of it!! They also help reduce the risk of preterm birth and support overall cognitive and visual development. Veggies have their own benefits- one of which is their high-fiber content. This indigestible component of plant-based foods is essential for preventing constipation, a common discomfort during pregnancy. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of gestational diabetes, and supports heart health.
While it’s important to stay cognizant of the various nutritional components of your meals, it doesn’t need to be terribly complicated! There are plenty of one-pan recipes that allow you to build a nutritious dinner without too much prep work. I love to throw together a leafy salad, topped with a protein and drizzled with a flavorful vinaigrette.
Snacks: Pregnancy tends to bring on moments of hunger throughout the day. Additionally, small snacks can help keep that morning sickness at bay. In my "snack drawer," you'll find trail mix, Bobos bars, and other wholesome snacks to keep me going. As a fan of smoothies, I often reach for a nutritious smoothie as a mid-morning pick-me-up. It's a great way to get more essential nutrients and stay hydrated.
On that note, let's chat about hydration. Staying well-hydrated is essential for the body's increased blood volume, which supports the baby's growth and development. Adequate water intake can help prevent common discomforts like constipation and swelling, which often arise during pregnancy. It also aids in regulating body temperature and ensures that essential nutrients are effectively transported to both the mother and baby. To stay hydrated, aim for at least eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water per day, and adjust your intake based on your activity level and the climate. Additionally, you can obtain fluids from hydrating foods like water-rich fruits (e.g., watermelon, oranges, and berries) and vegetables (e.g., cucumber and lettuce). Herbal teas can also contribute to your overall fluid intake.
You’re Only Human: While maintaining a nutritious diet throughout pregnancy is important, I've come to realize that it's perfectly fine to indulge in a few pregnancy cravings. If I find myself yearning for pickle-flavored potato chips or a scoop of ice cream, I'll treat myself without feeling guilty. Try to make a conscious effort to savor and appreciate every bite. Being in tune with my body's signals has been invaluable in navigating the nutritional choices that best serve me and my growing baby. Enjoying what you have and allowing yourself these small pleasures can make the journey all the more enjoyable.
A nutritious diet is a recipe for a healthy pregnancy, blending the right ingredients to support both you and your growing baby. Remember that every pregnancy is unique, so it's essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to tailor your dietary needs to your specific circumstances. Additionally, there are a variety of supplements that you can take to support a healthy pregnancy. I have detailed a few of my favorites in this blog- and you can find them all at our online supplement store!