There’s a reason they call it eating for two: it is absolutely crucial that your body receives enough nutrients for your own needs as well as for your baby’s rapid development. Healthy eating for two doesn’t mean you have to double your intake of everything – that is a misconception that drives many mothers-to-be to excessive weight gain and the risk of maternal obesity, which comes with several health complications that endanger both the mother’s and baby’s health.
Rather, the concept is all about eating enough nutrients that sustain both your needs without compromising the other. This article discusses the concerns related to healthy eating during pregnancy and how to make sure that both the mother and baby are nutritionally healthy.
Weight Gain and Additional Caloric Consumption
The body of a pregnant woman becomes more receptive to nutrient absorption during pregnancy, which explains why you don’t have to double your intake of everything. Your prenatal checkup should allow your doctor to see if you are of appropriate weight, which is usually measured by looking at your height and weight ratio. Obtaining your baseline weight will also help your doctor assess whether your gain is favorable, as it can be an indicator of your health as well as your baby’s growth within the womb.
During pregnancy, you will experience an increased basal metabolic rate (the number of calories consumed in a day). In short, you need more calories because your baby is aggressively developing organs and body parts.
If you are of the ideal weight, you don’t need to increase your caloric intake during the first trimester. The first three months should prioritize a balanced nutrition with focus on prenatal supplements for iron, B vitamins and most importantly, folic acid. In the second trimester, you should add an extra 200 to 300 calories. It could be a piece of toast or a fruit snack such as a banana. During the last three months, your caloric intake should be increased by 300 to 450 calories. This could be simply in the form of a chicken sandwich or a glass of milk.
These additional calories and your growing baby should give you considerate weight gain. Ideally, you should gain about 25 to 35 pounds throughout the entire pregnancy. The first five pounds are typically gained in the first trimester, and each week after that should see a gain of one pound until birth.
Baby-Friendly Foods and Foods to Avoid
Daily meals should always be balanced proportions of carbohydrates, protein, friendly fats (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamins and minerals. Fiber-rich and complex carbohydrates like whole wheat, oats, and lentils are better than refined sources because they keep you feeling fuller longer and give you a sustained level of energy. Choose plenty of lean protein — meats, cooked seafood, chicken, turkey and eggs are necessary to support your baby’s muscular and organ growth. They are also good sources of folate and iron. Choose low-fat variants of calcium-rich dairy, but always make sure they are pasteurized. Never underestimate fruits and vegetables; they are the foods you should eat without limit as they boost your immunity and supply your baby with vitamins A, C, E, as well as necessary minerals like iron and folate.
You will need to steer clear of any undercooked or raw meats and seafoods. They may contain bacteria which could harm your baby in utero. Also, stay away from fish that contain high levels of mercury. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and unpasteurized dairy.
Combating Gastrointestinal Discomforts
Your discomforts may have a lot to do with your body’s need to retain and absorb more nutrients. Gassiness, constipation and bloating may get in the way of your appetite from time to time, but it helps to understand that these are all results of food staying in your intestine for longer than usual because more nutrients have to be absorbed. Here are some ways you can make healthy eating for two easier:
- Talk to your doctor about anti-emetics if your nausea and vomiting are severe. While severe morning sickness may not harm the baby, it will get in the way of his or her nutritional demands.
- Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water, soups, and natural fruit juices.
- Instead of three big meals, eat smaller portions more frequently.
- Keep a supply of ginger ale and crackers for those days when you can’t hold anything in.
- Take your prenatal supplements religiously.