March is National Nutrition Month! The food we eat on a daily basis affects how our bodies work, how we heal and grow, and how we maintain energy and strength. It also affects other things as well, like our fertility. Usually, our eating and lifestyle habits only affect ourselves. However, pregnancy is the one time in your life when your eating habits directly affect another person. So to give our developing children the healthiest start to life, we need to be conscious of what we are putting into our bodies during pregnancy.
It is advised that pregnant women need about 300 extra calories a day during the second and third trimesters to accommodate the growing baby. But this doesn’t mean changing your order from a small fry to a large fry at a restaurant is going to cut it (even though those pregnancy cravings say it will!). Babies need nutrient packed foods in order to grow and develop properly. Here are some of the essential food groups and nutrients for pregnancy:
- Protein – Protein aids in the growth of fetal tissue, especially the brain. It also helps you with uterine tissue growth and increasing your body’s blood supply. Protein sources included meats, nuts, fully cooked fish, legumes, and eggs.
- Folate – This is probably the most important nutrient you need to have during pregnancy. Folate (or folic acid) plays a major role in reducing the risk of neural tube defects in your baby, like spina bifida. Many foods in the United States today are fortified with folic acid to reduce this risk. Folate sources include leafy greens, fruit, whole grains, and legumes.
- Calcium – This nutrient helps build baby’s bones and teeth! Sources of calcium include milk (including almond milk), yogurt, eggs, and pasteurized cheese.
- Iron – Iron helps increase your blood volume during pregnancy. Sources of iron include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps teeth and bone development and metabolic processes in your baby. Fruit has great sources of vitamin C!
So many choices for nutrition! However, be aware, there are some foods pregnant women should completely avoid during pregnancy, even if they are nutrient packed. They could cause harm to the developing baby. Here are examples of good you should avoid or limit:
- High-Mercury Fish – This is a common food pregnant women need to avoid. Mercury is highly toxic and larger fish accumulate this element in polluted water. High-mercury fish include shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and white albacore tuna. However, shrimp, salmon, and canned chuck light tuna are okay in small amounts (1-2 servings a week).
- Raw or Undercooked Fish & Meat – Yes, this includes sushi. Raw fish can contain several disease causing bacteria and parasites including toxoplasma, salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. Consuming contaminated raw or undercooked meat and fish could lead to still birth or severe neurological illnesses.
- Caffeine – It seems that caffeine is found in every beverage except water nowadays! Pregnant women are advised to limit their caffeine intake to less than 200mg per day (or about 2-3 cups of coffee). Studies have shown that high intake of caffeine during pregnancy can restrict fetal growth and lead to low birth weights. However, these studies are not conclusive, so it’s okay to have at least one cup of coffee a day.
- Unpasteurized Milk and Cheese – Like raw meats and fish, unpasteurized milk and cheese could contain harmful bacteria like listeria. Pasteurization is the most effective way to kill harmful bacteria, without changing the nutritional value of the products.
- Alcohol – Consuming alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. It can also lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which includes heart defects, mental deficiencies, and facial deformities. It is advised that all pregnant women avoid alcohol altogether.
Your health and that of your unborn child should come first when thinking about the foods you eat during pregnancy. Did you know embryo adoption allows you to control the pre-natal environment of your adopted child? For more information, visit EmbryoAdoption.org.