Good Nutrition for a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy
Maybe you have decided to try to get pregnant, or have found out you already are. Congratulations! Your first step is to educate yourself about how to be the healthiest you possibly can be before and during your pregnancy. Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy. To support these changes, you must modify your diets nutrients and energy.
Eat according to the Canada’s Food Guide Recommendations:
• Eat 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetable each day - Eat lots of colourful fruits and vegetables. These are a great source of folate, vitamins and fibre.
• Eat 6-7 servings of Grain Products each day - Choose whole grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and rice. Grain products are a great source of energy, iron and fibre.
• Eat 3 servings of milk and alternatives each day - Milk, yogurt, cheese and foods made with milk are all great sources of calcium and protein. If you can't drink milk, fortified soy milk is a healthy alternative. Non-dairy foods also contain calcium, such as canned salmon with the bones, broccoli, and almonds.
• Eat 2 servings of meats and alternatives each day - For a great source of iron and protein choose leaner meat, fish and poultry or meat alternatives such as eggs, lentils, beans, tofu and peanut butter.
• Take a prenatal vitamin every day - Remember a prenatal vitamin does not reduce or replace healthy eating. It will help you get the extra vitamins and minerals you need while you are pregnant.
• Eat breakfast every day - Breakfast is an important meal to start off the day and if you skip breakfast you will probably not be able to make up those nutrients lost.
• Eat regular meals and snacks - Remember that if you don't eat, neither does your baby. Eat healthy snacks between meals - Follow your appetite. When you are hungry between meals choose healthy foods such as yogurt, fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers with cheese, nuts, etc. Healthy snacks are a great way to meet your extra nutrient needs.
Key Nutrients During Pregnancy:
Folic acid/folate is an important vitamin to include in your eating habits before you are pregnant and during early pregnancy. Folate or folic acid is a B vitamin that has been proven to help decrease the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs).
NTDs are birth defects that can occur when the neural tube fails to close properly during the early weeks of pregnancy, resulting in abnormalities of a baby's spine, brain or skull such as spina bifida. This means that most women find out they are pregnant after the neural tube already forms, which is why supplementation is important before finding out about a pregnancy.
Remember supplementation does not replace a healthy diet. Foods high in folic acid include kale, broccoli, spinach, beets, bran cereal, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes and lentils and orange juice.
Iron is essential during pregnancy as it helps build healthy blood for you and your baby. Following the recommended Meat and Alternative servings in Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide will provide you with the iron needed to support a healthy pregnancy. Meat, fish and poultry are great sources of iron. As well, meat alternatives such as dried beans and lentils are good sources of iron. Foods high in vitamin C can help your body absorb iron better, especially when eating non-meat sources of iron such as beans.
Calcium and Vitamin D:
Calcium and vitamin D work together to build strong bones and teeth for your baby. They also help to keep your bones and teeth strong throughout your pregnancy. Follow Canada’s Food Guide to ensure that you are getting the recommended servings from the Milk and alternatives food group will provide you with the calcium and vitamin D you and your baby need. Also important to know is that vitamin D is made by your skin from exposure to the sun, so get out and enjoy a little sunshine. Some good sources of calcium and vitamin D include: milk, chocolate milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, orange juice with added calcium and fortified soymilk.
Healthy Weight Gain for Pregnancy:
Women come in many shapes and sizes, all of which can be healthy. Most women will have a healthy weight gain while pregnant if they eat according to Canada’s Food Guide and are active during their pregnancy. It is recommended that most women gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. If you do not gain enough weight while pregnant, you are at higher risk of having a low birth-weight baby. This may cause problems with the baby's development and growth. If you gain too much weight while pregnant, you are at higher risk of having a high-birth weight baby and of gestational diabetes (diabetes while you are pregnant). This may lead to a long labour and higher risk of illness for you. It is not recommended to cut calories during pregnancy as this can compromise your babies nutririon. Speak to a Registered Dietitian about how to gain weight healthfully during pregnancy.
For more visit about prenatal nutrition speak to a Registered Dietitian or find out about the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program in your area.
Written By: Jaclyn Pritchard, Registered Dietitian
DISCLAIMER: This information is for entertainment purposes only. The recommendations may not work for you, and should not take the place of the recommendations made by your own medical personnel. We are not responsible for the outcomes of any recommendations. Do not make any drastic changes to your diet without the supervision of your doctor/dietitian. For more information, please see a Registered Dietitian in your area. To find one, visit dietitians.ca.