We are back with another installment of our week by week blog series where we discuss how your body changes during pregnancy, and some tips and advice on how to manage those changes as they occur. So, just what should you be eating when you are pregnant? And what is up with those cravings?
Always discuss your specific nutrition needs with your doctor. The conventional wisdom is to consume around 2,000 high quality calories a day to support yourself and your growing baby, but this is not a one-size-fits-all number. If you are very active, carrying twins, or having horrible bouts of morning sickness, this number may change.
First Trimester Nutrition
Your body is changing rapidly and needs a lot of support. High quality calories mean bites that are packed with nutritional benefits, especially if you are having trouble keeping food down. The most important thing during the early stages of your pregnancy is eating foods or taking supplements (if recommended and prescribed by your doctor) rich in folic acid. Without this, your baby could develop with poor neural tube function. Another critical mineral is calcium. The baby needs lots of calcium to grow its teeth and bones. If you do not consume enough, the baby will help itself to the calcium in your body. Your body’s blood circulation and production increase during pregnancy too, so consume iron-rich foods to stave off depletion.
Second Trimester Nutrition
Most women that experience morning sickness find that unpleasant side effect easing in the second trimester. If morning sickness has prevented you from eating a varied and healthy diet, it’s time to double down! You still need plenty of iron-rich foods like beans, leafy greens, and whole grains to support the extra blood production. So, reach for that beef and spinach. If you are vegetarian or vegan, ask your doctor if you need to supplement. Baby’s skeleton and teeth continue to grow so keep up with that extra calcium. Foods rich in Vitamin D will also benefit the baby’s skeletal growth and boost your own wellbeing. Drink plenty of water and avoid excess sugary or empty calorie drinks.
Third Trimester Nutrition
You are in the home stretch! You need to keep getting the nutrition listed above through a varied diet based on nuts, leafy greens, fruits, tofu, whole grains, beef, chicken, sardines, and oats. However, for the third trimester you may need to increase your overall caloric intake. Your doctor will confirm if you need to push past the 2,000-calorie range to support the rapid growth spurt your baby experiences before labor and delivery. You want to ensure an ongoing healthy diet as the labor process is intensive. Think, “How would I fuel my body for a long workout?” Indulge in low-mercury fish, sweet potatoes, pasteurized milk – the foods that provide fuel for you and baby.
What about cravings?
While the jury is out on what the causes pregnancy cravings, an ongoing theory is that you crave what your lack nutritionally. The desire for salty pickles could signal a need for more sodium. Wanting a big, juicy fast-food burger could be a cue for more protein.
Or it’s just one of those mysteries where pregnancy is the only time a combination of ice cream topped with hot sauce actually sounds… good?
Whatever you crave, be sure to balance it among your need for nutritious support for you and your baby so you both have the energy, vitamin, minerals and more you need for a healthy, happy journey. Visit our website to know more information.
Reviewed by Paul V. Holland, MD