Tips for a Nutritious Pregnancy Diet Plan

Pregnant woman in her kitchen blending fruits and vegetables

It can be overwhelming to look at all of the pregnancy nutrition recommendations and advice for pregnant women. You’ve probably heard conflicting information, too – “eat seafood,” “don’t eat seafood.” etc. Diets are unique to each individual person and there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account – previous medical history, any complications that have arisen during the pregnancy, and food accessibility are all factors that can influence a woman’s diet. There are, however, a few general rules that are usually followed across the board when it comes to nutrition and pregnancy. 

Take a Prenatal Vitamin Daily 

Pregnant woman holding prenatal vitamins and a glass of water

During pregnancy, your body requires increased levels of certain nutrients such as folic acid, iron, calcium, and iodine to support the growth and development of your baby. Prenatal vitamins contain higher levels of these nutrients than regular multivitamins to ensure that both you and your baby are getting adequate amounts. For example, folic acid is important in preventing neural tube defects in your baby, and iron is essential for healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your baby.

Additionally, some women may not get enough of these essential nutrients from their diet during pregnancy alone, particularly if they experience nausea or other pregnancy-related symptoms that make it difficult to eat a balanced diet. Prenatal vitamins can help to fill these nutritional gaps and ensure that both you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need. There are a wide variety of prenatal vitamins on the market – we recommend talking with your doctor or local pregnancy care center about which would be best for you to incorporate into your pregnancy nutrition plan. 

Stay Away From Raw and Undercooked Meats 

While these are usually fine for anyone to consume on a regular basis, for a pregnant woman, these foods can contain bacteria that could make both you and the baby sick if consumed. This is why it’s generally recommended that pregnant women abstain from eating things like sushi until after they deliver; avoiding raw meat means avoiding potential bacteria. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat any meat at all in your pregnancy diet plan – just make sure that it’s cooked thoroughly and from a trusted food source! 

Limit Your Intake of Sugary, Caffeinated Beverages 

Sugary drinks, such as soda, fruit juice, and sweetened teas, are high in added sugars, which can contribute to excessive weight gain during pregnancy and increase the risk of gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy. Consuming too much sugar can also lead to dental problems, increase the risk of high blood pressure, and negatively impact the developing fetus.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can cross the placenta and affect the developing fetus. While moderate caffeine consumption (up to 200 milligrams per day, or about one 12-ounce cup of coffee) is generally considered safe for a pregnancy diet plan, consuming too much caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight. Caffeine can also cause insomnia, headaches, and increased heart rate, which can be uncomfortable for pregnant women. Moderation is the key when it comes to sugary, caffeinated beverages – they aren’t totally off-limits, you just need to be mindful of how much you’re consuming.

Seafood is Fine – It’s The Mercury That’s Worrisome 

You may have heard that pregnant women aren’t supposed to consume any seafood while they’re expecting. There is some truth to that. Some seafood contains mercury. Mercury is a toxic metal that can be harmful to the developing fetus if a pregnant woman is exposed to high levels of it. Mercury can cross the placenta and accumulate in the fetal brain and nervous system, causing developmental problems and neurological damage.

Mercury is found in some types of fish and seafood, especially larger predatory fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, which can contain high levels of mercury due to biomagnification. When women consume these fish and seafood for nutrition during pregnancy, they can be exposed to high levels of mercury, which can have negative effects on the developing fetus.

Swordfish steaks on a cutting board

Exposure to high levels of mercury during pregnancy can cause a range of developmental problems, including delays in cognitive and motor function, language development, and attention span. In severe cases, mercury exposure can cause cerebral palsy, blindness, and deafness.

To reduce the risk of mercury exposure during pregnancy, women should avoid consuming high-mercury fish and seafood, and choose lower-mercury options, such as salmon, sardines, shrimp, and tilapia for their pregnancy diet plan. They should also follow local fish advisories and limit consumption of canned tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week. Pregnant women should also be cautious of other sources of mercury, such as certain dental fillings, thermometers, and skin-lightening creams, and talk to their healthcare provider if they have concerns about mercury exposure during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Nutrition Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

Overall, keeping a balanced diet during pregnancy is best for both mom and baby. It can be frustrating to keep track of all the information about what to eat and what not to eat, but usually, it’s simply a case of moderation. Create a pregnancy nutrition plan ahead of time, incorporate your prenatal vitamins, review with your doctor, and enjoy your pregnancy confidently! If you need additional support or help finding resources, reach out to us today. We’re here to help.

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