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Planning a Healthy Pregnancy Diet

When you’re pregnant, everything you do either contributes to you and your baby’s health or is a missed opportunity to have done something positive for both of you. You can make a big difference in your health and in your baby's health, just by choosing the right foods for a healthy pregnancy.

Essentially, the diet while you are pregnant isn’t any different than before you were carrying your new bundle of joy. There are however, a few foods to avoid or eat less of.  Following the normal daily recommendations for the good old “four food groups” is the easiest way to make sure your baby gets what he or she needs.

Researchers used to believe that if babies did not get the proper nutrients from mom’s body then they just suffered through without those key nutrients—however new data now proves that babies will take from mom’s body what they need—robbing mothers of key nutrients.  For this reason, mothers-to-be should be careful to eat a balanced diet.

Your healthy pregnancy diet should include up to four servings of dairy products each day. Dairy is an important source of calcium and Vitamin D. You can choose from low fat or even skim milk or yogurt – cheese counts as a dairy serving as well. If you’re lactose intolerant or are an active vegan, soy options exist that can replace dairy products.

You should have one to two servings of lean protein daily as well.  Protein sources can include foods like chicken, beef, pork, lamb, fish and seafood. Do be aware, however, that some forms of seafood – particularly fish that may contain mercury – aren’t safe during pregnancy. The highest levels of mercury are found in kingfish, swordfish, tilefish and shark. Six ounces of chunk light (not chunk white) tuna weekly is considered safe for pregnant moms. Other protein sources to use with caution include hot dogs and luncheon meats like bologna.  These meats can contain bacteria known as Listeria which has been linked to miscarriages during the first trimester.  Hot dogs should be heated to steaming, and avoiding luncheon meats all together are safest.

 If you’re a vegetarian, you can choose beans and cheese to fulfill your dietary requirements. However, if you’re choosing cheese as a protein source, it can’t also count as a dairy serving – one serving of food can only fulfill one requirement, not two. Aim for a total daily protein intake of around 80 grams, counting the protein in all the foods you consume. Nut sources like almond and peanut butters are also high protein sources.

One or two servings of fresh green leafy vegetables should also be included every day. Vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, spinach, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens and collard greens all fit into this category.

You should also include five servings of whole grains each day. Whole grain products not only provide a number of vitamins and minerals, they’re also a good source of fiber. Pregnant women have a tendency to be constipated, and whole grains can help bulk up stools by absorbing water, making it easier to pass.

 Whole wheat bread is a good choice – just make sure the first ingredient on the label reads “100% whole wheat,” and not “enriched wheat,” which isn’t actually a whole grain. Whole grain cereals like oatmeal are also a good choice, as is granola, as long as it doesn’t include trans fats.

Each day, you should include at least one serving of fruit that’s rich in Vitamin C in your diet. This could be an orange or grapefruit, or a serving of tomato. This can be in juice form, although the whole fruit is preferable, as you’ll get more fiber and nutrients this way. Five times each week, add a yellow or orange colored fruit or vegetable to your diet. This includes carrots, squash and yellow bell peppers. These foods are a good source of beta carotene, from which the body manufacturers vitamin A.

You should also try to include two eggs in your diet every day. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and contain many vitamins and minerals that benefit your body, including a healthy form of cholesterol that will help your baby's brain develop.

Healthy fats are another important dietary element during pregnancy. Nut oils, olive oil, or avocados are good choices. Avoid trans fats and aim for three servings of healthy fat each day.

Caffeine is generally safe as long as it is consumed in small amounts.  Keep soda, coffee and tea intake to six to eight ounces per day or consider switching to a decaffeinated variety.  Water is best of course—and its recommended that you get 64 ounces of water per day. 

While a balanced diet may feel like lots of numbers and too much to think about, common sense will direct you to healthy choices.  The occasional pit stop for a burger and fries is fine, just don’t make it a habit—or you may gain more weight than necessary.

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