Did you know that pregnancy increases your needs for 20 out of 29 necessary vitamins and minerals, and that your B6, folic acid, iron, iodine and zinc needs are increased 40-50 percent?
At any life stage, eating a variety of proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods can meet most of the body’s demands. But maintaining a varied diet during pregnancy isn’t always possible due to morning sickness, busy schedules, food intolerances, reflux and other factors.
Taking a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement that includes these specific nutrients can help give moms-to-be the energy to complete daily tasks as well as meet the needs of her developing baby. There are many supplements on the market listed as prenatal multivitamins, but not all of them contain all the necessary nutrients. When choosing a prenatal supplement, make sure to pick one with B6, folic acid, iron, iodine and zinc.
While antacids can help improve reflux, they contain calcium which can reduce iron absorption. If using these, try taking them two hours before or after taking an iron-containing supplement or high-iron foods.
While vitamin and mineral needs are much higher during pregnancy, calorie needs are only increased by 10-20 percent – and only in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. While many friends and family will push food on you, saying “you’re eating for two,” do not feel pressured to eat past fullness.
However, do try to fit in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich, and protein-rich foods every day. Eight to 12 ounces weekly of low-mercury fish is encouraged during pregnancy for the benefits of unsaturated fats. Eating these foods while nursing will also pass these benefits on through breastmilk.
Visit here for a list of fish which are low in mercury.
Focusing on these foods does not mean you have to limit yourself to these foods; there is still space for other foods you enjoy or crave. Just make sure to pay attention while eating and listen to your body’s hunger and fullness.
Morning sickness can make getting adequate nutrients difficult. Eating smaller meals more frequently, and including salty, dry foods, usually helps manage morning sickness enough to prevent weight loss. If morning sickness does not resolve by 13-14 weeks of pregnancy, ask your doctor about meeting with a registered dietitian (RD) to find alternatives to get the nutrition you and your baby need.
Also consider consulting with an RD if you are experiencing food aversions to the point you cannot tolerate a whole food group; if you have food preferences that prevent you from consuming a whole food group; or if you have a health condition that affects your ability to eat a variety of foods.
Foodborne illness can be much more serious during pregnancy and can affect developing babies. All grocery stores are required to stock pasteurized milk and juices, but if buying from a farm or farmer’s market directly, ask the farmer if it has been pasteurized. Cook meat and eggs thoroughly (145-165 degrees depending on the product), and cook lunch meats and reheat leftovers to 165 degrees.
If you’d like to learn more about nutrition and food safety and practice hands-on cooking for simple, low-cost meals, email CookingMatters@hhsys.org to see if there are classes near you.
If you would like to meet one on one, always look for a credentialed registered dietitian. Huntsville Hospital has outpatient RDs at the Wellness Center. You can schedule a meeting by calling (256) 265-7100
- Select a prenatal vitamin that includes minerals. Gummies do not contain adequate minerals
- Eat a variety of foods
- Measure food temperatures for food safety
Carmen Moyers, RD, LD
Adult and Pediatric Clinical Dietitian, Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children