Nutrition and Pregnancy - You and Your Baby Are What You Eat

They say you are what you eat. If that is true and you are pregnant then it is true of your baby as well. What goes into you goes into your baby so make sure to make smart choices at meal and snack times. We will start at the beginning...or in the case of pregnancy, even before the beginning. Changes to your diet should begin even before conception. You may also have to make dietary changes during the course of your pregnancy, and while you are lactating.

It is evident that prenatal nutrition impacts short- and long-term health. But each pregnancy, like each person, may be unique and call for differing nutritional requirements. A team approach may be best when nutritional assessment and counseling are to be performed. This could mean a registered dietitian, health professionals who have trained in prenatal nutrition counseling and education, your primary doctor and of course you yourself. Make sure to take full advantage of the counselling provided by your health care professionals. You will have many questions for them and they will have many informed answers to give you.

Nausea and vomiting during the first few months of pregnancy can make food the last thing you want to think about. But good nutrition during pregnancy is very important for your baby to grow and develop. Generally you need to eat around 300 additional calories per day than you did before you became pregnant. You want what is best for your baby so it is important to eat a well-balanced diet and take prenatal vitamins. With foods as well as with pregnancy sometimes the best way to go is to simply let nature take its course. In regards to food this means lots of fruits and veggies.

You need at least one source of vitamin A every other day. Some good sources include cantaloupe, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach, water squash, beet greens, apricots, and turnip greens. Remember the importance of folic acid. Pregnant women need at least 0.4 mg of folic acid every day to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. You can get folic acid from legumes (chickpeas, lima beans, black beans, and black-eyed peas), dark green leafy vegetables and veal. You will need 70 mg of vitamin C a day. To get this daily requirement choose mustard greens, tomatoes, green peppers, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. Fruits rich in vitamin C include honeydew, papaya, oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries.

You and your baby will need 27 mg of iron daily. Some iron-rich foods are dulse flakes (a type of seaweed), cooked millet, quinoa, brown rice, prune juice, sweet potatoes, green peas, bananas, apples, raspberries and blackberries. Calcium is also vital. You should get 1000-1300 mg of calcium in your daily diet during pregnancy. You need to drink and eat calcium-rich foods and dairy products every day, about four servings. Choose milk and other dairy products like cheese as well as canned fish and calcium-fortified foods like cereal, juice, soy and rice beverages, and bread.

A good basic guideline to your pregnancy diet is to remember to eat foods high in fiber that are enriched such as vegetables, fruits, rice, whole-grain breads, cereals, and pasta. The best choice is to eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Your recommended daily intake includes three servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts), four servings of dairy products, four or more servings of vegetables, two to four servings of fruit and 6-11 servings of breads and grains.

Well, you have a pretty good outline of what is nutritionally good for you and your baby. But what are some of the food and drink choices you should avoid while pregnant? Not surprisingly this list includes many selections you might want to steer clear of or use with careful moderation even when you are not expecting a child. For example, the legal drinking age is 21 in many places. So it is a safe bet that your baby is not ready for the night life just yet. No level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy so your wisest choice is to avoid alcohol altogether. Excess caffeine may get you going in the morning but it can also cross the placenta and affect your baby's heart rate. Lay off the coffee, latte, espresso and soda pop in heavy quantities. Keep your caffeine intake down to less than 200 milligrams a day during pregnancy.

Studies have shown that too much vitamin A can cause birth defects. High vitamin A levels are found in paprika, red pepper, cayenne, chili powder, liver, cantaloupe and butternut squash. Raw sprouts of any kind might contain disease-causing bacteria. Be sure to cook alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean sprouts thoroughly. You will want to avoid any unwashed fruits and vegetables as these may be harboring harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized foods could lead to foodborne illness. Anything containing unpasteurized milk should stay off a pregnant woman's plate. Do not eat Mexican-style cheeses, such as queso blanco, queso fresco and panela or other types like Brie, Blue cheese, Camembert or Feta unless these soft cheeses are clearly labeled as being pasteurized or made with pasteurized milk. Avoid unpasteurized juice and eggs as well.

Like your steak rare? Better for you and your baby if you order it well-done. Stay away from undercooked meat, poultry and eggs. While you are pregnant you are at increased risk of bacterial food poisoning. It is possible that while pregnant your reaction might be more severe than if you were not pregnant. In somes cases food poisoning affects the baby as well. Make sure to fully cook all meats and poultry before eating them. To be on the safe side use a meat thermometer to remove all doubt. Sunny side up eggs are a no-no too, cook them until the whites and yolks are firm and fully done.

Let the big fish swim...or at least leave them chilling on that ice the catch of the day is being displayed on at your local market. The bigger and older the fish is the more mercury it is likely to contain. King mackerel, swordfish, shark and shellfish could contain potentially dangerous levels of mercury. Too much mercury could damage your baby's developing nervous system and could possibly harm your nervous system as well. Better to keep Jaws in your home video library and off your dinner plate.

To fortify your nutritional intake be sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your daily diet while pregnant. Remember to take a prenatal vitamin supplement to make sure you are consistently getting enough vitamins and minerals on a daily basis. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional. They can prescribe a prenatal vitamin for you or recommend an over-the-counter brand. Always keep in mind that you are eating for two now. You will want to make the best food choices for both of you.

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