A healthy diet is important for everyone, everyday. For pregnant women it’s even more essential. Whatever a pregnant woman eats, her developing baby will as well. There are specific nutrients needed for the optimal health and growth of the baby. And while most foods are safe for both mother and baby, some foods pose a danger to one or the other.
If you are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive, here’s what you need to know about pregnancy nutrition.
Every pregnant woman should take a daily prenatal vitamin to ensure her baby is getting the vitamins and minerals necessary for his normal development. A daily vitamin, however, can’t replace a well-balanced diet.
Here’s a list of the vitamins and minerals a pregnant woman should eat.
Calcium: Calcium builds strong bones and teeth. If a baby doesn’t get enough calcium he’ll take it from his mother’s bones, so be sure to replenish your supply by eating 1,000 mg of calcium a day. Get your calcium from yogurt, milk, fortified orange juice, cheese, tofu, or cottage cheese.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is needed to help the baby absorb calcium for building strong bones and teeth. Get at least 200 IU of vitamin D a day from foods such as milk, fortified cereals, fortified orange juice, and eggs.
Choline: Choline supports healthy spinal cord and brain development. Eat 450 mg of choline a day. Good sources of choline include eggs, pork, beef, chicken, cod, salmon, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): An omega-3 fatty acid, DHA helps ensure healthy brain and eye development. Aim to eat 300 mg a day. DHA is found in foods such as salmon, blue crab, canned tuna, catfish, and fortified eggs.
Folic Acid: Especially important during the first month of pregnancy, folic acid protects a baby from spinal cord birth defects. It also helps prevent miscarriage and premature delivery. The recommended daily amount is 600 micrograms. Great sources of folic acid include spinach, lentils, enriched rice, spaghetti, broccoli, orange juice, and enriched cereals.
Iron: Iron is important for the formation of blood cells and helps prevent premature delivery. Pregnant women need at least 27 mg a day—twice as much as normal. Foods such as enriched cereal, enriched rice, white beans, beef, chicken, and lamb are all high in iron.
Zinc: Zinc is needed for healthy brain development. Pregnant women need at least 11 mg a day. Sources of zinc include cereal, cooked oysters, beef, pork, crab, yogurt, and white beans.
Protein: Needed for cell growth, at least 70 grams of protein are essential for pregnant women. Find protein in milk, eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood.
While most foods are safe for mother and baby, there’s a list of foods to avoid while pregnant or nursing.
Raw Meat: Never eat rare or uncooked meat, poultry, shellfish, or seafood. Raw meats may be contaminated with salmonella, bacteria, or toxoplasmosis.
Deli Meat: A bacteria called Listeria can be found in deli meats. Listeria may cause infection or blood poisoning in the baby.
Fish High in Mercury: Exposure to mercury may cause developmental delays or brain damage. Fish containing mercury include shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish. Canned tuna, if consumed, should be eaten only in small amounts.
Smoked Seafood and Pate: Whether refrigerated, smoked seafood, refrigerated pate, or meat spreads, these are often found in the deli section. Unfortunately, they also run the risk of containing Listeria.
Raw Eggs: Uncooked eggs may contain salmonella. Foods such as homemade dressings, mayonnaise, or homemade ice cream may contain raw eggs.
Soft Cheese: Any imported soft cheese may also contain Listeria. Unless labeled as being made with pasteurized milk, avoid imported cheeses such as Camembert, Brie, Roquefort, Feta, Mexican queso blanco, and Gorgonzola.
Unpasteurized Milk: Milk that hasn’t been pasteurized may also contain Listeria.
Caffeine and Alcohol: Caffeine should be limited, especially during the first trimester to reduce the chances of miscarriage. Drink less than 200 mg a day during your pregnancy. Absolutely no alcohol is safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding as it causes developmental disorders.