Good nutrition is not only vital to your baby, but will help you to have a very comfortable and energetic pregnancy, and the very best chance for an intervention-free and uncomplicated delivery. Focus on the quality of your diet during pregnancy and staying active, and everything, including healthy weight gain, will fall into place.
Here are seven ways you can improve your diet to give yourself and your baby the best nutrition. (For more on nutrition during pregnancy including a 7 day pregnancy meal plan, grab a copy of my ebook – Fit To Be Pregnant: 12 Steps to the Healthy, Comfortable, and Fit Pregnancy of Your Dreams)
Drink Green Smoothies
Green smoothies are an easy, delicious way to pack your diet with nutrients. They are especially helpful during the first trimester, when solid, fibrous foods can be difficult to stomach.
My green smoothies are just 1/2 cup of water or coconut milk, a handful of leafy greens like kale or spinach, celery, a cup of frozen fruit, and flaxseed. You can also add plain greek yogurt for some added protein and a more creamy texture.
Protein and Vegetables
To get the most nutrition bang for your buck, fill your plate at each meal with vegetables and a form of protein. Vegetables have all sorts of important vitamins and minerals that aid in your baby’s development and help you feel your best. Make sure at least 1-2 servings of your veggies per day are leafy greens so that baby gets folate, the nutrient important in preventing birth defects. Protein is the building block of life, and you’ll need plenty of it to help your baby develop.
The best way to get the protein and nutrients you need is from whole foods. Whole foods work with your body in ways even science hasn’t fully explained yet and that vitamins and processed supplements just can’t duplicate.
Fish and Or/Fish Oil
DHA and EPA are Omega 3 fats found in fish (and some nuts and seeds, but not in as great amounts as fish). This healthy fat is not only important to your developing baby’s brain and vision, but has been shown to decrease pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, and also lower the chance for post-partum depression.
Wild-caught salmon is a great choice for pregnancy because of it’s low mercury level. If you don’t like fish or don’t eat it regularly, you can take a fish oil supplement (here is the one I recommend and why).
Have a “Banned” List
While I didn’t eat perfectly square, nutritious meals 100% of my pregnancy (balance is important for long-term sustainability), there were certain ingredients that I would not touch because I felt they could be dangerous to my baby. These are found mostly in processed foods and have been linked to illness, diseases like cancer and diabetes, and some have been linked to birth defects. Here is my own banned list:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Trans fats or hydrogenated oils
- artificial sweeteners
- BHA/BHT Benzoate
- Caramel Coloring
Avoiding these and other dangerous additives is just a matter of avoiding processed foods. If I want to have a high calorie meal or a dessert, I just make sure it’s something like a whole grain pizza or real ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s is a good example), or I make my own homemade “junk” food.
Choose Organic Whenever Possible
Pesticides are sprayed on conventional produce, building up in our bodies. This causes a toxic load for our livers to filter through, and what isn’t expelled can be stored in our fat cells. Pesticides are neurotoxins that kill brain cells, and some studies are now linking high pesticide exposure during pregnancy to higher rates of autism .
Organic foods can be expensive. Choose organic produce that is in season to save money, build a garden and grow your own, or if you need to buy conventional, choose fruits and vegetables with a protective peel or coating that isn’t consumed (like bananas). You can also lower your pesticide exposure somewhat by washing your produce with warm water and vinegar.
Improve The Quality of Your Liquid Intake
With the changes to your body during pregnancy comes a greater need for hydration. If you can, eliminate sodas or cut way back as most contain at least one of the above additives. Many teas are also excellent choices for pregnancy (check with your doctor or midwife). But overall, try to consume as much water as you can, close to a gallon a day.
I carried this water bottle with me everywhere I went throughout my pregnancy so I could easily stay hydrated.
Eat a Variety Of Whole Foods
The greater variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, legumes, meats, and healthy fats you can consume, the greater chance you will meet all of yours and baby’s nutrient needs. Not only this, but later in pregnancy, baby can actually taste the flavors of the foods you eat in the amniotic fluid, which may possibly set him up to like healthy foods in his future.
To do this, choose fruits and vegetables of every color, use a wide variety of proteins from meat to eggs to lentils, eat a variety of nuts and seeds like walnuts, avocado, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and so on.