Healthy Eating During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
The food you eat contains the nutrients that serve as building blocks that form the organ systems, brain, skeleton, muscles, and all the components that make up your baby. Therefore, what you eat is an important factor in determining your baby’s future health.
Pregnancy Weight Gain
Total recommended weight gain depends on your pre-pregnancy weight:
|Weight Before Pregnancy
||Recommended Pregnancy Weight Gain
|Normal weight (BMI 20–24.9)
|Underweight (BMI <20)
|Overweight (BMI >30)
|Obese (BMI >40)
||Sometimes, modest weight lost is recommended
The rate of weight gain during pregnancy should be gradual with most taking place during the last trimester. Only a 1-2 kg weight gain is recommended during the entire 1st trimester, whereas approximately 2-3 kg/month is recommended during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Energy Needs during Pregnancy
You should not actually “eat for two” or double your calorie intake. However; in order to gain weight, you do need to consume extra calories. Energy needs increase, but this is dependent on factors like your pre-pregnancy weight, height, age, and activity level.
Extra calories are not needed during the 1st trimester because the size of the baby is still very small and recommended weight gain is minimal. However; you should eat an extra 340 calories/day during the 2nd trimester and an extra 450 calories/day in during the 3rd trimester to provide much-needed energy for your rapidly growing baby.
A Healthy Diet
A well-balanced, healthy diet is one that provides nutrients in the correct proportions from a wide variety of foods, emphasizing nutrient-dense foods. Those foods that are high in nutrients relative to the amount of calories they contain. The following table summarizes foods included in each food group, the amounts of foods that count as one serving, daily recommended servings, and key nutrients supplied
Nausea and Other Pregnancy Symptoms
||Counts as One Serving
|Bread and grains
breads and cereals, Rice, pasta, and other grains
||1-oz slice1 oz½ C
||6−8 oz/day≥50% from whole-grain sources
|| Dark-green leafy vegetables. Other raw or cooked vegetables
||1 C½ C
||Fresh fruit, Fruit juice (100%)Berries, melon, Canned fruit, Dried fruit
||One whole, small¾ C1 C½ C¼ C
||Milk and yogurt (non-fat/low fat)Soy milk or yogurt Cheese
||1 C1 C1½ oz
|Meat and meat alternatives
||Lean beef, pork, poultry, or seafood Beans or legumes Eggs Nuts and seeds Nut butter
||2–3 oz½ C cooked One whole⅓ C2 Tbsp
|| Butter, margarine, oils, jams, desserts, dressings, cookies, soft drinks, candy, chips, and snack foods
||Serving sizes vary. Eat only in moderation
||No amounts recommended
||A significant source of sugar, fat, and sodium
Some women experience gastrointestinal upsets and symptoms during pregnancy such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, hemorrhoids, food aversions or intolerances, and food cravings.
The following tips may help in dealing with these issues:
- Have small frequent dry meals and snacks, eating at least four to six times a day
- Consume at least 25−30 gms of fiber/day
- Drink at least six to eight glasses of liquid/day, primarily water
- Choose foods that you tolerate well—you will learn from experience
- Eat saltine crackers or other dry, bland carbohydrates before getting out of bed
- Try eating cold foods rather than hot foods
- Avoid strong food odours, using a fan to reduce odours while cooking
- Stay away from highly seasoned foods and heavy, fatty foods
- Serve only solid foods at meals and have liquids between meals
- Add ginger to foods—a natural remedy for nausea
- Suck on a fresh lemon wedge or drink water with fresh lemon juice
- Take time to enjoy your food by eating slowly
Snacks are a great way to satisfy hunger pangs or cravings between meals, help manage nausea, and, if chosen wisely, add important nutrients to your diet. Make fruits and vegetables more convenient by having small containers of them already washed and chopped up in your refrigerator. Also, keep individual containers of low-fat milk or yogurt, 100% fruit juice, whole-grain crackers or pretzels, and low-fat granola bars handy. These snacks are convenient to carry to work or bring on long car rides.
Here are some other healthy snack suggestions:
Nutrition During Lactation
- Granola bar or other healthy snack bar with fat-free milk
- Chopped fruit topped with yogurt and chopped nuts
- Wheat crackers and apple wedges with cheese slices
- Baby carrots dipped in hummus or low-fat ranch dip
- Rice cakes or graham crackers with peanut butter and banana
- Trail mix made of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
- Rolled-up turkey and cheese slices with pear wedges
Good nutrition is also important following your delivery, especially if you are nursing. Breastfeeding increases your need for calories as well as many key nutrients. Women who are nursing require an additional 330 calories/day during the first 6 months and 400 calories/day during the second 6 months to ensure adequate milk production. Key nutrients include protein, calcium, zinc, folic acid, and vitamins E and B6.
Just make sure that you drink plenty of water to help you stay well hydrated. Also, limit caffeine and alcohol because these may affect breast milk and the let-down reflex (alcohol). If you are trying to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy, make sure to lose weight gradually by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercising regularly.
The Bottom Line
As always, make sure to discuss your diet and eating plan with your health care professional. With all this information, some determination, and motivation, you can begin a journey of healthy eating to help ensure the optimal growth, development, and future health of your baby, while also optimizing your own health and well-being. You both deserve it!!