So you’re pregnant — congratulations! It’s understandable that you immediately want to start brainstorming names, shopping for adorable little onesies, and planning a super-cute mural to paint on the nursery walls.
However, all of that can wait. (You’ve got nine months to get everything done, after all!) Right now, the most important order of business is to ensure good health for both you and Baby. First and foremost, that means eating right. Keep reading to learn exactly what that means during this exciting time!
First, Are You Really Eating for Two?
You’ve probably heard the old expression “eating for two” and assumed that it meant you could pig out on all your favorite treats, using pregnancy as an excuse. Not so fast. It turns out that expecting moms really only need 350-500 extra calories per day.
Unfortunately, you don’t have license to omnomnom everything in sight; not only that, you have to be careful about what you do eat. All of your caloric intake should be composed of nutrient-rich foods like lean meats, legumes, whole grains, loads of fruits and vegetables, and some low-fat dairy.
Essential Nutrients for Fetal Development
In addition, it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough of the nutrients that are essential to your baby’s healthy development. Your little one needs plenty of protein to grow big and strong, calcium and Vitamin D to build his or her bones, and iron to fortify your blood so that it can deliver all these other nutrients to the fetus.
Also crucial are omega-3 fatty acids; these help the baby’s brain and eyes to develop. Speaking of the brain, you also need to supplement your folic acid intake. This is a type of B-vitamin that can help prevent birth defects involving the brain and spinal cord, as well as premature birth.
“Not all birth defects are preventable,” says Attorney John A. Lancione of The Lancione Law Firm. “Some, like Erb’s Palsy, occur as a result of the obstetrician’s error. But pregnant women can and should take other actions, like consuming enough folic acid, to prevent avoidable defects.”
What to Avoid When Pregnant
Part of eating well during pregnancy is getting enough of these vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients through your diet. Another part, unfortunately, may mean giving up some of your favorites for the time being.
Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish are to be avoided at all costs. Sorry, sushi lovers! There’s’ simply too great a risk of consuming fish contaminated with bacteria or parasites.
Mercury contamination is another risk that comes with eating fish. In this case, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tuna are the biggest culprits. Restrict your consumption of these fish to once a month while pregnant.
Bacteria and parasites are also a danger when it comes to eating meat. This is particularly true for raw, undercooked, or processed meats. Make sure to cook your burgers, chops, and chicken breasts thoroughly. Deli meats and hot dogs should be off the table too since they can be a source of a dangerous bacterium called listeria.
Best Practices for Pregnant Cooking
You’ll do just fine if you take proper care in the kitchen. Cook all meat, fish, and eggs to the recommended temperatures. Don’t forget to wash all vegetables and fruits before you peel, prep or eat them. That will reduce your risk of consuming bacteria that can be harmful to your unborn child.
Eat whole foods whenever possible, and choose food that is minimally processed. You might be craving chips, cookies, and candy, but keep your intake of these products to a minimum. An occasional treat is fine; however, for the health of you and your baby, everything that goes into your body should be as packed with nutrients as possible — not full of empty calories, sugar, fat, and chemicals.