Finding out you are expecting a little one is exciting news. It’s even more exciting because now that you have a baby on board, you get to eat for two, right? Well, not exactly. It might be surprising but building a baby requires very few extra calories in the first trimester of pregnancy. However, once the second and third trimester comes around and the placenta begins to grow and fetal metabolism increases, calorie needs for mom increase by 350-450 calories a day. Here are some examples of what that might look like:
The amount of food that represents what extra calories are needed each day during pregnancy can seem small in comparison to what we think we need. By only slightly increasing pre-pregnancy portion sizes, mom and baby’s needs are met. While everyone’s caloric needs are different, pregnant women are encouraged not to go below 1500-1800 calories each day.
Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
As far as good nutrition is concerned, optimum food choices are the same before and during pregnancy. Eat lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, nuts, and nut butter. Mercury contamination can be a concern while pregnant, as it can inhibit fetal brain development. Avoid foods high in mercury such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
One nutrient you may want to pay a little extra attention to is iron. Iron needs increase by 1/3 during pregnancy. Extra iron is needed for fetal and placental growth, as well as an increase in blood volume. While most prenatal vitamins contain sufficient iron, if you are not taking a prenatal vitamin, you should incorporate iron-rich food items into your diet. These items include animal proteins such as chicken, fish, beef, and pork. If you don’t like meat, try enriched cereals, oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, nuts and seeds. Pairing foods high in iron with foods high in vitamin c increases the absorption of iron. Vitamin C can be found in bell peppers, strawberries, oranges and orange juice, tomato products, dark leafy greens and others.
Examples of Iron and Vitamin C paired together:
Spaghetti sauce with meat over pasta
A bowl of oatmeal or enriched cereal with a glass of orange juice
Fajitas made with bell peppers and chicken or steak
Oatmeal-based granola over yogurt, topped with fresh strawberries
Keep it Safe During Pregnancy
Foodborne illnesses are bad enough if you are a healthy individual. But if you are a woman who is expecting, you can unknowingly contract a foodborne illness that infects the fetus while feeling completely fine. This can lead to premature delivery or miscarriage.
Follow these tips to help ensure food safety:
Wash your hands with warm soapy water before cooking
Keep meat, fish, poultry, and eggs in the refrigerator until ready to use
Cook meat, fish, poultry, and eggs until well done
Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheese made from unpasteurized milk
Wash all produce thoroughly
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours
For additional food safety recommendations visit Foodsafety.gov