October 24, 2020

Healthy Eating for a Healthy Pregnancy

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Brandi Propas is the newest addition to The International Medical Group. She is a registered dietician and her services are a welcome complement to the clinic.

Congrats on your pregnancy! Making healthy choices is even more important now that you are having a baby. Eating healthy while you are pregnant will ensure the baby gets the nutrition it needs to grow as well as to lower your chances of having health problems during pregnancy such as low iron or high blood pressure.

Healthy weight gain is the first step in ensuring both you and the baby remain as healthy as possible. There is a misconception that a pregnant woman needs to “eat for two”. In fact, pregnancy only requires on average an additional 400 kcals per day. This is the equivalent of a yogurt and slice of toast with peanut butter or two additional small snacks per day – not double portion sizes! Healthy weight gain during pregnancy depends on what your pre-pregnancy weight and BMI was. If you had a pre-pregnancy BMI in the healthy range (18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2) then 25-35 lbs is a healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Generally the lower your weight before getting pregnant the more weight you will need to gain while pregnant.

There are some key nutrients that a pregnant woman needs to be aware of. First is folic acid. Folic acid is a vitamin that helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs). It is important to take extra folic acid before becoming pregnant (400 mcg/day) and continue throughout the duration of the pregnancy (minimum 600 mcg/day). While folate is found in leafy green vegetables and whole grains, due to the higher needs during pregnancy, it is recommended that you get this nutrient from a pre-natal supplement in addition to consuming a diet high in vegetables.

Iron needs also increase during pregnancy to 27 mg per day (compared to 18mg in non-pregnant women). Iron is a nutrient that helps build the red blood cells that carry oxygen and iron to the baby. Good sources of iron are meats, whole grains, beans and lentils. However, even a well-balanced diet generally does not provide a sufficient amount of iron so a pre-natal vitamin is essential to help you get the additional iron required during pregnancy.

Calcium is another nutrient that pregnant women need to be concerned about. Daily requirements for calcium during pregnancy are 1000mg, the equivalent of 3 cups of milk. If you are not a milk drinker, then calcium can be obtained from cheese, yogurt, Salmon with bones, fortified orange juice and calcium-set tofu; however, it can be difficult to meet calcium needs from these foods alone. For many women a supplement ensures the recommended daily amount is met.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the development of the baby’s brain, nerves and eyes. Plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids can be found in walnuts, flax seed and soybean. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in high amounts in fatty fish, such as salmon, trout and sardines. It is recommended that pregnant women eat 5oz of high omega-3 fish each week. Fish is a healthy food to eat while pregnant though some precautions need to be taken. Do not consume raw or undercooked fish as this can increase the risk of food borne illness. Some fish are also high in mercury and should be avoided. High mercury fish include swordfish, albacore tuna, grouper and king mackerel.

To further reduce the risk of food borne illness, especially Listeria, it is also important to avoid eating unpasteurized cheese such as brie, camembert and goat’s cheese. Pate, some deli meats and smoked fish products also increase the risk of food poisoning. To further protect yourself also avoid raw sprouts, especially alfalfa sprouts, unpasteurized apple cider, foods made with raw or lightly-cooked eggs and undercooked meats and poultry.

Caffeine is also of concern for pregnant women. Small amounts can still be consumed though only 200 mg per day. This is the equivalent of two 250 mL (8oz) cups of coffee. Keep in mind that tea, colas, and chocolate also contain caffeine.

Enjoy these low mercury fish often

  • Clams
  • Canned sardines and anchovies
  • Arctic Char
  • Yellowtail Snapper
  • Pacific Cod
  • Sole
  • Dungeness, Stone or King Crab
  • Squid
  • Flounder
  • Talapia
  • Haddock
  • Trout
  • Pacific Halibut
  • “Light” canned tuna (Skipjack, Yellowfin, Tongol)
  • Herring
  • Perch
  • Pollock
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Fresh, frozen or canned wild or Pacific salmon (not Atlantic or farmed)

 

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