Our approach to eating during pregnancy focuses on the “big four”: protein, iron, calcium, and fluid. If you have plenty of these components in your diet each day, you will most certainly provide your baby with the ideal habitat for growth and development. For the suggested minimum requirements during pregnancy, click here to review the "Spectacular six"
There are three basic parts to food: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. In addition, there are also vitamins and minerals. Everything you eat breaks down to these basic parts. If you have a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, your vitamin and mineral intake will most likely be enough. Iron and calcium are the most challenging of minerals to obtain. That’s why we include them in our “big four."
The recommended weight gain for pregnancy is 25-40 pounds. Every woman is different and therefore will grow their babies at different rates. If you have a healthy diet and your baby is growing at an appropriate rate, your weight gain is most likely within the range of normal.
Food high in iron include red meat, dark skinned beans, prunes, prune juice, whole grains, black strap molasses, and leafy greens. Iron is most available for absorption by your body in an acidic environment. Examples include adding vinegar or lemon juice to your greens, cooking your meat or beans with tomatoes, and adding blackstrap molasses to your orange juice. If you have to take an iron supplement, it is best to take between meals or with a glass of orange juice. Also, iron supplementation often contributes to constipation. If you are supplementing your diet with iron pills, make sure to increase the amount of fiber in your diet. Fiber is found in whole grain foods, bran, fruits, and vegetables. Finally, you can obtain a minimal amount of iron from cooking in a cast iron skillet.
The RDA for calcium during pregnancy is 1200 mg per day. This is a monumental amount of calcium to obtain through diet alone. Calcium is found in dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and some soy products. One cup of milk contains about 300 mg. of calcium. Minimal amounts of calcium are found in broccoli. You will absorb calcium most readily in an alkaline or non-acidic environment. If you are going to take calcium supplements, we recommend calcium citrate, or better yet, a calcium supplement balanced with magnesium.
Protein is the building block for muscle tissue. In addition, protein helps regulate a mother’s blood glucose, providing you with a more sustained level of energy throughout the day. Animal products are an ideal source of protein, including eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, meat, fish, poultry, and pork. You can also obtain protein from non-animal sources as well. These include nuts, soy products, beans, and a minimal amount of protein is found in whole grains. Pregnancy demands a larger portion of your diet consist of protein.
During the first trimester, you may experience varying degrees of appetite change along with nausea and vomiting. Some people find they are hungrier than others and some women lose their appetite altogether for a while, especially if they are suffering from nausea. We find the key to growing a healthy baby and feeling your best is an adequate intake of protein. The simplest way to accomplish this goal is to ensure that with every snack or meal you consume, there is a protein component involved. For example, do not have just a cracker, but include some peanut butter or cheese with it. The frequent addition of protein to your diet will help stabilize your glucose levels. Most pregnant women find that “grazing”, or eating six small meals throughout the day, helps stave off excessive nausea and provides more energy to moms. You want to consume 500 more calories per day now that you are pregnant.
We want to mention the simple carbohydrate. All carbohydrates you consume break down into glucose (sugar). Whether it is a chocolate bar or a piece of toast, your body metabolizes that food into glucose. Simple carbohydrates are substances that your body breaks down more quickly into glucose. Some examples include fruit juice, white bread and bagels, white rice, candy, soda, and pastries. These items are essentially empty calories, or calories that contain no nutritional value. They fill you up but don’t provide much for you or the baby. Try to limit these types of foods. Fluid is essential! You are made up of 98% water and so is your baby. You should plan to drink at least 96 oz. of water and other fluids a day.
The Maine Bureau of Health recommends that pregnant women avoid eating predatory and freshwater fish including swordfish, fresh tuna, and shark. These fish contain high levels of mercury that are associated with birth defects and brain damage. If you have questions about specific fish or amounts of fish appropriate during pregnancy, please consult the Maine Fish and Game Guidelines or call us. You can benefit from the Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish by simply taking certified metal-free fish oil capsules. Omega 3 fish oils have been shown to increase neural development of the fetus. We recommend taking 1000 mg of Omega 3’s each day throughout your pregnancy and as long as you breastfeed your baby, as breast milk is currently the only place babies can obtain these important neurological growth boosters until they begin to eat solid foods!
The Dirty Dozen
Perhaps you already know about this list and you buy nothing but organic produce, but if you’re where to start when it comes to buying organic produce, this list is for you. With diapers, and kid gear to accumulate and the economy changing daily we know that budgets are stretched, but the foods on this list have been shown to have the highest amounts of herbicides/pesticides which are best kept out of the diets of pregnant and nursing moms as well as growing children and all other family members. Many pesticides are fat soluble, which means that they are potentially stored in the body. Research is examining the effects of some of these chemicals on developing brains and immune systems.
As you shop the perimeter of the grocery store keep in mind that the more we buy organic the more plentiful and perhaps inexpensive it will become. Buying from local sources is a wonderful way to feed your family and support the great work of the Maine Organic Farmers’ Association.
In the mid-1990’s the Environmental Working Group developed the dirty dozen, a list of high-risk pesticide containing foods. This current list was updated in 2010.
We suggest that when you buy organic you try to include these items:
- Bell Peppers
- Grapes (imported)