Are you really eating for two?
It has often been said that a pregnant woman is "eating for two." The reality is: you are only eating for about one and an eighth. Your basal metabolic rate increases during pregnancy to support fetal development, however, your baby's caloric needs are not the same as yours. Energy requirement varies among individuals. Generally, it is recommended that during the second and third trimesters, pregnant women eat an additional 2 to 3 food guide servings each day. Additional calories could be in the form of an extra snack such as a smoothie made with milk and fruit or a slice of whole grain bread with almond butter and a sliced banana.
Variety is the spice of life
Eating a variety of foods each day will ensure you and your baby get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. A variety of fresh, real foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, meats and alternatives, and milk and alternatives are the best choices.
Key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy:
During pregnancy, women have an increased need for folic acid, iron, and calcium. It is recommended that expectant women take a prenatal vitamin to supplement a balanced diet. However, too much of certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful to your baby. Talk with your physician, a registered dietitian or one of our pharmacists about appropriate supplementation.
Folate (Folic Acid)
Folic acid is a B vitamin that aids in the rapid growth and repair of new cells, particularly those that will develop into the baby's brain stem and spinal cord very early on in a pregnancy. Recent studies have also linked folic acid to the prevention of common congenital heart defects, urinary tract disorders, facial clefts, limb abnormalities and some early childhood cancers.
Food sources of folic acid include fortified grains, spinach, lentils, chick peas, asparagus, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, corn and oranges. In addition to eating foods that are high in folate, it is recommended that women of childbearing age should start taking folic acid (400mcg) at least three months before and throughout their pregnancy.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Your baby depends on you for the calcium and vitamin D it needs for healthy bones and teeth. Depending on your age, it is recommended that you include at least 2 servings of milk and alternatives each day. To absorb calcium, choose products that are fortified with vitamin D such as milk, soy beverages, and yogurts. See our section on bone health for more information on calcium requirements.
Iron is essential to maintaining a sufficient level of blood supply to your growing baby and the placenta. Because many women are unable to meet the increased requirements during pregnancy, a daily low dose iron supplement (at least 16 - 20 mg) is often recommended during the second and third trimesters. Check your multivitamin/ mineral or prenatal supplement to see how much it contains. You can help prevent iron deficiency anemia by eating more iron-rich foods like lean red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, whole-grain breads, and iron-fortified cereals.
Vitamin B12 is essential for growth of new tissue, nerve function and formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods and beverages from animal sources, however, nutritional yeast, many soy products and some rice beverages are now fortified with this vitamin. Moms who follow a vegan diet (avoid all animal products) need to be especially careful to ensure they get enough of this vitamin each day.
Essential fatty acids
Healthy fats such as omega 3 are necessary for a baby's brain and eye development. Sources include: fatty fish, soybeans, tofu, nuts and seeds, non-hydrogenated margarine and canola, flaxseed or soybean oil. Additional info is available on Health Canada's website.
Illicit drugs, inhalants, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and even certain herbal products can affect the unborn baby. Check with your doctor before using any medications and herbal products.
Drinking 8-12 cups of fluid each day will help your body to:
> Carry nutrients to baby
> Eliminate wastes from yours and baby's growing body
Weight Gain and Pregnancy
First and foremost, weight gain during pregnancy should be monitored closely by a doctor or registered midwife. The recommended amount of weight for women to gain during pregnancy directly relates to pre-pregnancy weight.
Pickles and Ice Cream Anyone? Where do cravings fit in?
If you have a craving for ice cream, cookies, popsicles, candy or any other food considered safe for pregnancy - enjoy some. Just make sure that the foods consumed as a result of cravings don't push other foods (and their associated nutrients) out of the diet. Be sure to eat the recommended minimum servings as outlined in the chart above.
Proceed with caution:
> Herbal products (and teas): Some herbal teas are safe to drink during pregnancy (2-3 cups per day). These include ginger, bitter orange/orange peel, Echinacea, peppermint, red raspberry leaf, rose hip, and rosemary. Avoid chamomile tea.
> Limit caffeine to 300mg a day, roughly the equivalent of less than 2½ cups of coffee or less than 3 cups of tea.
> Avoid alcoholic beverages.
> Avoid sugar substitutes: Although evidence does suggest that consumption of some sugar substitutes is safe and does not pose a health threat, choose real nutrient and energy dense foods that serve to benefit you and the health of your baby.
> Limit high-mercury fish and seafood such as shark, fresh or frozen tuna, marlin, swordfish, escolar and orange roughy, to 150 grams per month.
> Do choose fish such as salmon, sole, rainbow trout and prawns
Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and juices, raw sprouts, undercooked meat, poultry and fish, as well as ready to eat meats and salads as they may contain harmful bacteria and parasites that could potentially cause serious food poisoning during pregnancy.