The following is a guide to some of the basic questions you may find yourself asking about nutrition in pregnancy
Congratulations!! Now that you are pregnant you want to eat right for you and your baby; but there is so much information out there! What are the most important things to know? The following is a guide to some of the basic questions you may find yourself asking.
How much weight should I gain?
- Recommendations are based on a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight for height, or Body Mass Index (BMI).
- For a healthy pre-pregnancy BMI: recommended weight gain is 25-35# total by 40 weeks. (Recommended rate of 1#/wk throughout the second and third trimesters)
- Twin pregnancy: overall weight gain of 37-54# is recommended. (Recommended rate of 1.5#/wk throughout the second and third trimesters).
What are my energy requirements?
- NRC recommends +300 calories/day throughout the second and third trimesters.
- For twin pregnancy: +150 calories/day above the needs of a singleton pregnancy. (Or 450-500 extra calories/day).
Since the calorie needs don't go up THAT much, WHAT you eat becomes more important than simply HOW MUCH. What are my protein requirements?
- +10 g/day above regular needs (or minimum of 71g/day).
- This equates to 3-4 servings/day
- A serving is:
- 3 oz meat/fish/poultry
- 1 cup dried beans
- 3-4 T nuts or peanut butter
- 2 eggs
- 4-6 oz tofu or soy protein
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- Make a trail mix out of your favorite cereal and dry roasted nuts or seeds
- Carry individually wrapped cheese sticks to have along with fruit or crackers
- Dip raw carrot sticks or apple slices into peanut butter or cottage cheese
- Spread pita wedges or whole grain crackers with a bean dip or hummus.
It's a good idea to sprinkle a little protein into each meal and snack. (Every 3-4 hours or so). In this way, you will meet your protein needs without ever having to eat a very large portion at one time. It can also help keep your energy level stable, and reduce the risk of heartburn! A few ways to add protein rich snacks to your day:
What are my vitamin and mineral requirements?
- Daily Reference Intake (DRI): 1000 mg/day.
- This equates to 3-4 servings/day
- A serving is:
- 1 cup milk or calcium fortified juice or soy milk
- 1.5-2 oz hard cheese
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1-1.5 cups pudding or ice cream
- Calcium from vegetables is harder to absorb.
The Institute of Medicine recommends all women capable of becoming pregnant should consume a supplement containing 400 mcg of folic acid in addition to folate found in foods.
- DRI: 600 mcg/day
- Food sources of folate:
- Fortified cereals
- Orange juice
- DRI: 27 mg/day
- The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends a supplement with 30 mg/day after 12th week for most people. (Ask your OB)
- Iron content of foods:
- > 5 mg/serving: 3 oz liver*, 1 oz fortified cereals w/> 45% Daily Value.
- 3-5 mg/serving: 3 oz beef, 1 cup legumes
- 1-3 mg/serving: 4-5 pieces dried fruit, 1 egg yolk, 3 oz fish/chicken.
- *Liver is very rich in Vitamin A so it is recommended to limit the amount of liver to occasional use only. Keep the amount of Vitamin A from supplements and fortified foods to a maximum of 5000 IU/day. It is ok to eat beta-carotene, the form of Vitamin A from fruits and vegetables, in unlimited amounts, as the body will convert it only as needed. Choose a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables!
While eating nutritious foods is important during pregnancy, it is equally important to protect yourself from harmful bacteria and pathogens that can make you or your baby sick.
What are the food safety basics?
- Wash your hands before preparing food, before meals and after handling raw meats or using the bathroom.
- Cook meat and poultry until well done.
- Reheat leftovers and Ready To Eat foods like deli meats and hot dogs.
- Wash fruits and vegetable under running water.
- Avoid cheeses and other products made from unpasteurized milk. Ask in restaurants if you are not sure. Some potentially unpasteurized cheeses: feta, blue-veined cheeses, Brie and Camembert. Avoid unpasteurized juices as well such as freshly squeezed apple cider.
- Avoid raw eggs and raw egg products. (Raw cookie dough or cake batter, double check Caesar salad dressings)
- Store and maintain foods properly; refrigerate promptly, follow expiration dates.
What about fish?
Fish and seafood are excellent low-fat sources of many nutrients including protein, omega-3 fatty acids and minerals such as calcium and zinc. There are a few types of fish, however, that pregnant and breastfeeding women should not eat due to their potential higher content of 2 pollutants: methyl mercury and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls).
What to avoid?
- Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, Tilefish, and Tuna Steak. These long-lived fish contain the highest levels of methyl mercury, which may harm an unborn baby’s developing nervous system.
- Freshwater fish (trout, for example) caught in local ponds, rivers, and streams.
- Limit the use of canned tuna. While it is below the limit for mercury, to be safe use on occasion, and choose chunk light vs. white albacore for the lowest levels.
It is safe to select a variety of other types of fish: well-cooked shellfish, smaller ocean fish or farm raised fish. It is safe to eat 12 ounces of cooked fish/week, with a typical serving size being 3-6 ounces.
Those are the basics for a healthy, safe and nutritious pregnancy! For more information individually tailored to you, consult your OB and Registered Dietitian!