Pregnancy is the time to make adjustments to your diet and take note of what you consume because you are not just eating for yourself anymore. Some foods, such as seafood and sprouts, should be consumed with caution, while others, like folic acid, should be eaten more often. Meanwhile, here is a general guide to help you make smarter decisions when planning your pregnancy meal plans.
Eating plans during pregnancy should be nutrient-dense and healthy, as you are eating to support your own body as well as your developing baby. The March of Dimes Foundation suggests eating foods from the five food groups every day, and that a pregnant woman generally needs to add only 300 extra calories to her eating plan.
Here is a general guideline to how much should be consumed:
Whole grains: 6 ounces per day.
As a guideline, it equals:
- 6 slices of bread
- 3 cups of cooked rice, pasta, or grain
- 6 tortillas (6 inch in diameter)
Vegetables: 2.5 cups per day
- Vegetables can be measured raw, cooked, or juiced
- If the vegetable is leafy or voluminous, the suggested serving amount will consist of 5 cups of leafy greens per day.
- Be sure to go easy on the condiments, such as salt and butter, on the veggies
Fruits: 1.5 to 2 cups per day
- Fruits can be dried, frozen, fresh, juiced, or canned
- Be sure to drain the sugary juices in canned fruits prior to consumption
Dairy: 3 cups per day
As a guideline, it equals:
- 3 cups of milk or yogurt
- 4.5 ounces of natural cheese (such as cheddar and parmesan)
- 6 ounces of processed cheese (such as American cheese)
Proteins: 5 to 5.5 ounces per day
- Be sure the protein sources are lean cuts of meat
- Other protein sources include eggs, beans, legumes, and nuts
- Nut butters also fall into this category
- Fish can fulfill this category as long as they are low in mercury
Three proper meals per day, with a mid-morning snack and mid-afternoon snack, would be enough. Junk food, sweets, and fats are not included in this guide, as most of them do not provide high quality nutrients for the mom and the developing baby.
If fats are consumed, be sure they are vegetable oils and omega 3 fatty acids. It is also best to substitute sugary drinks with milk, fruit juices, and water, and if junk foods are consumed, be sure they are in moderation. Also, drink lots of water, at least 6 to 8 glasses per day!
(For a quick guide on what you should be eating while you're trying to get pregnant, read A Guide To Creating A Pre-Pregnancy Diet Plan.)
If you are not fitting into your skinny jeans during pregnancy, don’t freak out! Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and healthy for yourself and the baby, assuming you are eating a normal, nutritious diet. The process should happen gradually during the pregnancy, and should not skyrocket at any particular point. In fact, most of the weight is usually gained in the last 3 months of pregnancy, and it is normal to gain a total of 25 to 35 pounds during this journey. It is typical for women to gain:
- First trimester: a total of 1 to 4 pounds
- Second trimester: 2 to 4 pounds per month
- Third trimester: 2 to 4 pounds per month
Keep in mind that the gained weight includes that of the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, breasts, uterus and your own body composition. If you are experiencing weight loss or abnormal weight gain, see your doctor for a healthy weight management plan.
- “Eating for Two”: Sometimes, women may mistakenly believe that they will need to double their caloric intake because they are eating for both herself and her baby. Instead, it means that the mother is responsible to eat a healthy diet, full of nutrients, for both herself and her baby. While it is fine to indulge in high-caloric foods once in a while, keep in mind of portion sizes and try not to use pregnancy as an excuse to indulge excessively. However, it is important to note that women expecting twins, triplets, or multiple births will most likely need a higher daily caloric intake than women expecting only one baby, so be sure to consult your doctor.
- Food cravings: cravings are due to hormonal changes within the body, and are totally normal. While most cravings are not harmful and odd at best, be sure to take heed of the type of food in question and take necessary precautionary steps during preparation. For example, if the food craving consists of cold cut meats, be sure to heat them to a boiling point to kill potentially harmful bacteria prior to consuming. Otherwise, consult your physician on the proper methods to protect yourself during waves of food craving.
It is the best to consult your healthcare provider on the best pregnancy meal plan for you based on your current health status. While this guide can help you create your own pregnancy diet plan, your physician can give you the best advice on the types of foods and supplements you need and the appropriate portions you should eat.