6 Keys to Pregnancy Nutrition
Pregnancy is one of the most beautiful stages in a woman’s life, but it’s also the time to pay more attention to nutrition. Good or bad pregnancy nutrition will affect the health of the mother and, of course, the baby.
During pregnancy, there’s a greater demand for energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals, so you have to improve your habits to meet these demands. Keep reading to learn the keys to nutrition in pregnancy that will allow you to be as healthy as possible from start to finish.
The importance of pregnancy nutrition
Gestation is a stage of a woman’s life where many changes occur. In 2019, Nutrients magazine confirmed that nutritional requirements increase during pregnancy. Therefore, both excesses and deficiencies in consumption can affect the outcome of a good pregnancy, the health of the mother-child binomial, and even the quality of breast milk.
That is why proper nutrition is essential for both the mother and the future baby. Eating correctly reduces the risk of low birth weight, premature birth, preeclampsia, and even the development of chronic diseases in the adult stage of the newborn. Therefore, to achieve a healthier life, we must start with a balanced diet adjusted to the nutritional requirements.
Below, we’ll tell you what the keys to proper pregnancy nutrition are.
1. Eat for two but not twice as much
The WHO establishes that it’s normal for a woman to gain between 20 and 29 pounds during pregnancy to reduce the risk of maternal and fetal complications. However, everything will depend on her Body Mass Index (BMI) before pregnancy. Of this weight gain, half corresponds to the weight of the baby, amniotic fluid, and placenta. The other part is related to natural gestational gain.
Eating too much during pregnancy carries the risk of preeclampsia, cesarean delivery, or gestational diabetes. The child is also at risk for cardio-metabolic problems and impaired cognitive function.
2. Stay hydrated
When you stay hydrated, you urinate more frequently, and fluid retention, constipation, urinary tract infections, dizziness, and headaches are reduced. Fluids include pure water, unsweetened juices, broths, and herbal teas.
3. Eat a proper diet to assure proper pregnancy nutrition
Here are the foods that shouldn’t be missing from a pregnant woman’s diet:
- Foods rich in fiber: Vegetables, whole grains, and fruits provide enough fiber to reach the 25 grams indicated per day and thus avoid constipation and other digestive disorders.
- Foods that are sources of calcium: It’s advisable to consume skimmed and fermented dairy products to facilitate calcium absorption. Vegetables include nuts, legumes, broccoli, cabbage, soy drinks, almond drinks, and tofu.
- Iron-containing foods: Iron is a mineral that’s essential for blood formation. It’s highly available in red meat, organ meats, poultry, fish, and meat products. In vegetables, iron is less absorbable. It predominates in legumes, whole grains, seeds, dark green leaves, and broccoli. In addition, vitamin C in fruits and vegetables helps with its absorption.
- Foods with folic acid: This vitamin is involved in the development of the baby’s central nervous system. It’s found in legumes, green leaves, cereals, and nuts. Up to the third month, folic acid supplements are indicated.
- Foods rich in omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, participate in the synthesis of brain cell membranes for visual development and prevent postpartum depression. They’re found in oily fish, shellfish, and seaweed. Some vegetables, such as chia, flaxseed, or olive oil, contain a precursor called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
- Protein foods: Meats, fish, poultry, seafood, eggs, and cheeses provide proteins with a high biological value, as they contain a good proportion of essential amino acids. Legumes and grains should be combined with each other to increase the biological value of their proteins.
4. Comply with the nutritional supplements prescribed by your doctor
Your obstetrician-gynecologist will indicate the doses of the necessary nutritional supplements to help with your diet. For example, you can ensure proper intake of folic acid, iron, calcium, and omega-3 with daily supplements.
5. Distribute meals better
For lighter digestion, meals should be distributed among 5 or 6 portions. For example, this can be breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner.
In addition, snacks should be as healthy as possible, so whole fruits, unsweetened juices, yogurt, cottage cheese, or whole-grain crackers, among others, are good options.
6. Exclude raw and ultra-processed foods
Proteins such as raw eggs, fish, meats, and raw milk should be excluded. These can be vehicles for disease-causing bacteria. In addition, processed meats and viscera should be reduced.
Some fish, such as bluefin tuna, swordfish, and shark can be a source of mercury, a contaminant that causes neurological toxicity in infants and young children. Also, beverages containing sugars, gas, or alcohol should be eliminated, as well as stimulating liquids such as coffee, tea, or chocolate.
Even though it’s not necessary to exclude it completely, it’s best to moderate the consumption of salt, which should be iodized. In addition, as a precaution, ultra-processed foods should be avoided, as they contain many additives such as salt, monosodium glutamate, artificial preservatives, and hydrogenated and trans fats.
Ensure the necessary nutrients
The secret to a healthy pregnancy lies in a style of eating that ensures all the nutrients necessary for the optimal growth and development of the baby and the health of the mother. Also, there should be adequate monitoring with health specialists.
In this regard, a diet rich in iron, calcium, fiber, folic acid, omega-3, and lean proteins of high biological value should be maintained. Hydration, eating several times a day, and the exclusion of foods that can be harmful, are also part of the keys to pregnancy nutrition.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Mousa A, Naqash A, Lim S. Macronutrient and micronutrient intake during pregnancy: an overview of recent evidence. Nutrients 2019;11(2). pii: E443. Disponible en: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413112/
- Food and Agricultural Organization. World Health Organization. United Nations University. Human Energy Requirements: Report of a Joint FAO/OMS/UNU Expert Consultation, 2001. 2004.
- Mariana Minjarez-Corral, Imelda Rincón-Gómez, Yulia Angélica Morales-Chomina, María de Jesús Espinosa-Velasco,II Arturo Zárate,¶ Marcelino Hernández-Valencia. Ganancia de peso gestacional como factor de riesgo para desarrollar complicaciones obstétricas. Perinatología y Reproducción Humana. 2013, Volumen 28, Número 3 pp 159-166.
- Conde Puertas, Elena; Conde Puertas, Esther; Carreras Blesa, Carmen. Evaluación de la ingesta de pescado en población gestante en relación a la exposicion al metilmercurio. Nutr. clín. diet. hosp. 2015; 35(3):66-73 DOI: 10.12873/353. Disponible en: https://revista.nutricion.org/PDF/191114-EVALUACION.pdf