Expert explains what a pregnant woman’s meal plan should look like

With a positive pregnancy test in hand, you may question if you need to alter your diet in order to fulfill the nutritional needs of a growing human embryo.

The good news is that healthy eating guidelines are largely consistent with what you’ve always been told. Consume an abundance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

However, there are dietary modifications you could or should make. Lacey Krebsbach, M.D., and Jordan Coauette, M.D., OB/GYN experts at Sanford Health, discuss how to fill your plate with consideration for your health and your baby’s.

Your relationship with food may change

Food can be your biggest enemy or your closest friend during pregnancy.

Some individuals suffer from nausea and vomiting, which stops them from eating as they choose. Others suffer from continual hunger. The aromas and flavors of food might vary. The hours at which you can and cannot eat may vary. Everything is normal.

Regardless of where you lie on this spectrum, strive to consume the appropriate meals in the appropriate amounts. Quantity and quality are important.

How much to eat

So how much additional food should a pregnant woman consume? The majority of pregnant women do not require an increase in caloric intake during the first trimester. During the second and third trimesters, they should increase their daily caloric intake by no more than 300 calories.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued recommendations regarding the amount of weight women should gain during pregnancy. The amount of weight you should gain during your entire pregnancy is determined by your body mass index before to pregnancy (BMI).

Calculate your BMI.

You fall into one of four groups based on your BMI: underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. According to obstetricians, based on your BMI, you should acquire the following number of pounds during your pregnancy:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5): 28-40 pounds
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9): 25-35 pounds
  • Overweight (BMI 25-29.9): 15-25 pounds
  • Obese (BMI greater than 30): 11-20 pounds

What to put on your plate

A daily multivitamin with folic acid or a prenatal vitamin is the healthiest supplement to include in your diet. Start taking prenatal vitamins before you are pregnant, if possible.

During pregnancy, you should consume a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Additionally, you require additional iron, calcium, folic acid, zinc, and vitamins A, B, E, C, and D. The majority of vitamins and minerals can be obtained from a balanced diet and prenatal supplements.

Increase your intake of:

  • Iron-rich foods
  • Washed fruits and veggies
  • Calcium

There are hazards associated with taking excessive amounts of some vitamins, and the majority of herbal supplements are contraindicated during pregnancy. Discuss anything you’re taking with your OB, including over-the-counter supplements.

People with unique needs will require more precise dietary modifications and supplements. This includes individuals with diabetes, gastric bypass surgery, or who have previously given birth to a child with spina bifida. If you belong to one of these categories, consult your doctor as soon as possible during your pregnancy.

If you restrict your diet in any manner, you should also discuss particular dietary guidelines with your physician. This includes vegetarians, vegans, and those who fast for extended periods of time for religious or cultural reasons.

Foods to avoid while pregnant

You should avoid certain foods because of their risk of toxins, bacteria or parasites that can be harmful to you and your baby. This includes:

  • Uncooked or undercooked meats, fish or poultry
  • Large ocean fish that are high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish
  • Unwashed fruits or veggies
  • Raw sprouts such as alfalfa, radish and mung beans
  • Unpasteurized dairy products

These foods are safe in moderation if they are cooked well:

  • Low-mercury fish and shellfish like shrimp, canned tuna, salmon, catfish, pollock or fresh lake fish
  • Deli meats, processed meats (hot dogs) and smoked meats and cheeses

You may have to decrease your intake of:

  • Caffeine. Limit to 200 to 300 mg per day (one to two servings a day)
  • Limit to two to three servings a week of low-mercury fish (see above)
  • Artificial sweeteners

Top 5 pregnancy eating myths

Here are the most common myths about eating during pregnancy out there:

  1. Eat three healthy meals a day. Instead, you should be eating six or seven small meals (every two to three hours). Eat frequently and from all various food groups. This helps keep your blood sugar in a constant range.
  2. Decaf only. Moderate caffeine intake isn’t likely to harm you or your baby, so there’s no need to cut out your favorite brew. One small cup of coffee a day is perfectly fine. The same goes for sodas with a caffeine jolt.
  3. Cut out the cheese. Some cheeses, like cheddar and Swiss, are not harmful as they have been pasteurized. It’s the soft, unpasteurized products like Brie, feta and goat cheese that might carry food-borne illnesses. However, some supermarkets may carry pasteurized versions of those cheeses. All you need to do is start checking the labels in the dairy aisle more frequently.
  4. You’re eating for two. You shouldn’t double your calorie intake. Instead, follow the above recommendations to eat the right quantity for your health and your baby’s.
  5. Say goodbye to seafood. Chances are that if the reputable (and tasty) sushi bar you love hasn’t made you sick pre-pregnancy, it’s safe to eat there when you are pregnant. Yes, there is a greater risk of ingesting bad kinds of bacteria from raw foods so you might feel more comfortable with a cooked-shrimp roll. You should also pay attention to mercury levels. Check out the fish listed in the foods to avoid and try to choose seafood with lower mercury levels.

Other considerations

Be mindful of hygienic food handling procedures. Ensure that you carefully wash all fruits and vegetables, wash your hands frequently, avoid cross-contamination with raw meat, and clean food preparation areas.

If you have questions regarding proper pregnancy diet, consult your obstetrician or gynecologist. Find a physician and investigate more pregnant health services.

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