Good nutrition during pregnancy is a gift mothers-to-be can give their babies and themselves. The old adage “You’re eating for two now” isn’t exactly accurate. Both you and your baby can benefit from good nutrition, but the expression doesn’t extend to caloric intake. The same good eating habits that keep your body healthy when you are not pregnant should be applied during pregnancy.
A well-balanced diet containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein will help ensure both you and your baby receive the needed nutrients. You only need approximately 300 extra calories per day in the last two trimesters of pregnancy—approximately the equivalent of a cup of whole milk and a large banana.
In addition to the basic five food groups, plant fats and oils (found in nuts, olives, and avocados) are beneficial to the development of the placenta and fetal organs. Omega-3 fatty acids also provide important nutritional benefits and aid in fetal brain development. These are found in certain fish like shrimp, salmon, and catfish, which should be consumed twice a week.
You should avoid fish with a high-mercury content, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Talk with your healthcare practitioner about the types of fish you can safely eat.
Vitamins and minerals are also important. Because reaching appropriate levels through diet alone is difficult, your obstetrician will probably suggest a prenatal vitamin supplement during pregnancy.
Important vitamins and minerals and their role in pregnancy include the following:
- Folic acid: This B vitamin helps prevent fetal neural tube defects that affect your baby’s brain and spine.
- Calcium and vitamin D: These important nutrients work together to aid in your baby’s development, especially teeth and bones.
- Iron: Iron is used to make blood and meet oxygen needs, which is important for mom and baby.