We all know that we need to make healthy food choices during pregnancy. There are many foods that have good nutritional value for you and your baby. This means your pregnancy diet need not be boring or bland at all.
Pregnancy and food are two things that go hand in hand. The earlier you start taking care of your nutritional intake, the better results for your and your baby’s health.
Better food choice is synonymous of a higher quality of life, and possibly a longer life.
During pregnancy you have to maximize the nutrients in the foods you eat and make sure they are nourishing rather than just empty sources of calories.
Pregnancy is one of the most common conditions where your body demands a proper selection of nutrients. So having healthy food choices is fundamental for your coming baby.
Eating the right pregnancy foods, along with an active lifestyle is essential. If you eat well and get good exercise during pregnancy you are more likely to have:
- Energy in order to be prepare for all changes.
- Stamina to handle emotional ups and downs, and to deal with stress.
- Reduced risk for any health problems that may affect your baby.
- The needed nutrients for the better development of your baby.
Do you know why you choose one food over another? The answer is likely straight because of “The Sense of Pleasure.” And this pleasure can be the mother of all bad eating habits. So having plenty of healthy food choices will allow you to control the pleasure to your favor. But do not be alarmed, eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods. You simply have to learn how to fit it in appropriately.
Diets that require you to eat certain foods exclusively, such as high protein or high carbohydrate diets, are typically not good for pregnancy. Your baby needs a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
What are the healthy food choices I have to pick from?
There are four main categories of healthy food choices: Bread and Grains, Fruits and Vegetables, Proteins, and Dairy products.
What to eat when pregnant? Following are foods that I found specially important during my pregnancy and when I was lactating.
Bread and Grains:
Bread and grains are the primary source of carbohydrates: Here you have some food choices with the healthiest form of carbohydrates:
- Foods made from whole wheat are usually good choices. Do not choose refined wheat flour or white flour as they do not contain the whole portion of wheat grain that contains vitamins and fiber, leaving only simple carbohydrates. Some nutrients with whole wheat are: cereals, pasta, tortillas, bread, and crackers.
- Foods with whole grain like barley, corn, millet, quinoa or buckwheat. Choose brown rice instead of white rice.
Avoid eating regularly sweetened foods. It is fine to include few sweet things in your diet but do not exaggerate, the best healthy food choices rich in carbohydrates comes from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, not sweeteners.
Avoid unhealthy fats. When choosing crackers and breads, look for products that are free of hydrogenated oils.
Dairy products are sources of calcium and protein which are highly needed in your pregnancy: Minimize whole-fat dairy products such as butter, whole milk, yogurts and cheeses. Instead look for low-fat or fat-free options, for example: low fat cheese, low-fat cottage and low-fat or skim milk. Having a glass of milk for an afternoon snack can significantly increase your daily calcium.
Fruits and Vegetables:
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber and water, which are worthy additions in your pregnancy. These nutrients can be considered one of the best healthy food choices. It is really hard to argue with the health benefits of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, especially for your unborn baby.
Although fruits and vegetables are already a source of a balanced diet, the value added to your pregnancy is to eat a wide variety of different types and colors.
For example: Dark leafy greens, cooked tomatoes, and anything that’s a rich yellow, orange, or red color.Include fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, broccoli and tomatoes.If you are deficient in vitamin A, eat dark leafy green vegetables everyday.
Protein foods: Proteins are important for your pregnancy and the development of your baby because they help to build muscle, tissue, enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Protein is also essential for adequate cell growth, blood production, and function of the placenta and amniotic tissue. Beans and legumes are a good source of protein, and also contain calcium, iron, thiamine and niacin. If you are vegetarian, these nutrients are healthy food choices for your diet. Soy beans contain more protein than any bean or legume. The best known proteins are meat and fish. Here you have some protein-rich meets and fish:
Meat: Beef, chicken, veal, lamb, duck, turkey and pork.
Fish: Salmon, tilapia, trout, shrimp, lobster meat, crab meat and canned clams. Keep in mind that not all fish is good for pregnant women. You should avoid eating tuna, swordfish, shark, King Mackerel and tilefish.
What kind of food I should avoid?
There are many foods that you should avoid when pregnant as you and your baby are very susceptible to viruses and bacteria that can cause diseases such as: Listeria, Salmonella, Mercury Poisoning.
Listeria can cross the placental barrier and be transmitted in the birth canal and can cause miscarriage.
Mercury can damage many parts of the body, including the nervous system, the lungs, the kidneys, vision, and hearing.
According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and FoodSaftey.gov, here you have a list of foods that are not considered healthy food choices during pregnancy:
- Some CHEESES made from un-pasteurized milk, such as Camembert or Roquefort.
- Some types of FISH, for example: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish. Make sure to eat only fish lower in mercury, such as shrimp, salmon and pollock.
- Not pasteurized JUICE.
- Avoid buying SALADS. It is better, healthier, and cleaner to have homemade salads.
- Some raw SPROUTS, such as alfalfa, clover, and radish.
- Raw or undercooked FISH (sushi).
- Un-pasteurized MILK.
- Deli meats in general: ham, bologna, turkey, salami, or hot dogs.
Proper nutrition during pregnancy is one of the best ways that you can get your baby off to a great start in life. Some final thoughts:
- Anything grilled is always better than fried.
- Homemade foods are always the best choice.
- Stick with your exercise routine and eat a lot of healthy foods.
- Eating junk food during pregnancy could have a bigger impact on childhood obesity, liver disease, and diabetes.