In honor of March being National Nutrition Month, we thought it was a great opportunity to explore the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy. If you’re currently expecting, you’ve probably heard the expression, “eating for two,” more than once! But does that actually mean you need double the calories? And does what you eat really affect your baby to be? These are great questions and ones you might be contemplating if this is your first pregnancy. Here are 7 reasons it’s crucial to eat a balanced and nutritious diet while you are pregnant.
- When you are pregnant, you need more protein, iron, folic acid, amino acids, calcium and other nutrients to meet your increased needs and the demands of your growing baby. While a prenatal vitamin is a great way to bridge nutritional gaps and should be part of your daily regimen, a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is a necessary component of a healthy pregnancy.
- Although the saying is, “eating for two,” you actually only need an extra 300 nutrient rich calories per day while pregnant, not twice as many. Weight gain should be gradual throughout pregnancy with the majority being gained in the third trimester.
- Your diet during pregnancy can impact major factors such as your baby’s birth weight, overall health and the incidence of disease later in life. For example, a diet rich in folic acid can reduce the risk of serious complications such as Spina Bifida and vitamin D is crucial for the development of your baby’s bones and teeth.
- Your weight gain during pregnancy can impact your health and the health of your unborn baby. Excess weight gain during pregnancy can lead to serious complications such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, postpartum hemorrhage and heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. Being undernourished during pregnancy can lead to problems for baby such as low birth weight, mental deficiencies and increased risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease.
- There is some evidence that suggests that your diet during pregnancy may impact your future child’s food preferences. The flavors in your food can actually alter the flavor of the amniotic fluid which can be detected by your baby. If you eat a diet that is high in sugar and fat, your child may be more likely to prefer these unhealthy foods. And conversely, if you eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other essentials, your child may be more likely to favor these healthy options.
- Eating a fiber-rich diet during pregnancy can help combat the inevitable constipation caused by your increasing hormone levels. Fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables are also dense in essential vitamins and nutrients for your growing babe.
- An excessive amount of sugar and fat during pregnancy can put your baby at a higher risk for obesity later in life, mental disorders and impaired social and cognitive abilities.
Most importantly, remember that what you eat during pregnancy becomes the primary source of nutrition for your baby. If you have questions about your nutritional needs or how much weight you should gain during pregnancy, talking to your care provider is a great place to start. They can advise you on the best prenatal vitamins and any additional supplements that may be needed in addition to helping you devise a healthy diet and exercise plan. For questions about healthy eating during pregnancy or for all inquiries related to natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Our goal is to help you and your baby enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy.