Nutrition and Weight Gain in Pregnancy
Most women need approximately 300 more calories a day when they are pregnant then when they are not (500 calories if you are still nursing or are pregnant with twins). A general guide is that most women should gain approximately 10 pounds by week 20 and about ½ to 1 pound on average per week thereafter, depending on your BMI (Body Mass Index) at the start of your pregnancy. You can use a BMI calculator on your smart phone or computer to calculate your pre-pregnancy BMI.
Try to eat a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Take a daily prenatal vitamin. Vitamins are meant to supplement, not replace, a well-balanced died. Nutrients are best absorbed in the foods in which they are naturally found.
Avoid uncooked meat, fish, eggs, and unpasteurized dairy.
Avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury, including king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tile fish. Limit white (albacore) tuna to six ounces a week. You can also check local advisories about fish caught in local waters.
Get good sources of protein: Lean meat, fish, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, legumes, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds
Calcium is important for your baby's bones and teeth. You should try to get at least 1000 mg a day. Try to get four to five servings of dairy per day (e.g., milk, cheese, yogurt, or ice cream). If you do not tolerate or like dairy, you can get it from other sources, such as broccoli, dark leafy greens, sardines, or a calcium supplement.
Folic acid is important to help prevent major birth defects to the spine and brain of the baby. It is currently recommended that pregnant women get 600 mcg of folic acid daily. It is hard to get folic acid from diet alone, so pregnant women should take a prenatal vitamin that contains a minimum of 400 mcg of folic acid.
Iron is used by the body in the production of red blood cells. Pregnant women need extra iron to make more blood to help supply good oxygen to their babies. The recommended daily dose is 27 mg of elemental iron. This is found in most prenatal vitamins. Eating iron-rich foods is also helpful as some women will become anemic as the pregnancy progresses. Good dietary sources of iron include lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables and prunes. Iron is more easily absorbed if eaten with vitamin C-rich foods (citrus and tomatoes).
Vitamin D works with calcium in the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. It is also important for skin and eyesight. All women need 600IU daily. Good sources are vitamin D-fortified milk and fatty fish like salmon.
Omega 3 fatty acids are important for baby’s brain development. You should try to eat two servings of fish or shellfish (about 8-12 ounces) per week while pregnant and breastfeeding. Some prenatal vitamins also contain it or you can get a supplement.
Caffeine intake should be limited to 200 mg per day (one 12- ounce coffee).
Risks of being overweight or obese in pregnancy, or of gaining too much weight:
The Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness has nutritionists for women who are very over or under weight and are having a hard time trying to figure out a healthy intake for pregnancy. Call 312.926.DOCS. Carol Southard also does smoking cessation counseling for those who are interested, call 312.926.2069.
Avoid smoking, illicit drug use and alcohol during pregnancy. Nicotine, alcohol and drugs cross the placenta and can affect your unborn child. They can decrease the amount of oxygen your baby receives, restrict fetal growth, increase preterm labor, increase risks of sudden infant death, increase risks of asthma, cause learning disabilities, cause behavioral problems, and increase the risk of miscarriage.