8 things nutritionists wish you'd do during pregnancy

8 things nutritionists wish you'd do during pregnancy

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Between exhaustion, "morning" sickness, and ravenous hunger, pregnancy can make it a challenge to eat right. But growing babies rely on their mom for sustenance, so you'll want to make good choices about what goes into your mouth – and into your womb. Read on to discover the eight most important things nutritionists recommend for healthy eating and weight gain during pregnancy.

1. Find out how much you should gain

"Know your numbers," says Jessica Corwin, a registered dietitian and community nutrition educator for Spectrum Health in Michigan. "We should gain different amounts of weight based on our individual BMI. It's helpful to ask your doctor how much you should be gaining."

Guidelines call for women who begin pregnancy at a healthy weight to put on between 25 to 35 pounds. Women who are underweight or having twins or multiples are advised to gain more, while women who are overweight or obese should gain less. Get the details on how much weight you should gain during pregnancy and why.

Those extra pounds are critical for your baby's growth and development. But with a typical baby weighing 7.5 pounds, what's all the rest of the weight for?

Here's a breakdown: An expectant mom's breasts add up to 2 additional pounds as they swell in preparation to feed the baby. The placenta and growing uterus add another 4 pounds. Factor in the extra blood flowing through your body – up to 3.5 pounds, which explains why a pregnant woman's iron needs are so high – and 6 to 8 pounds of amniotic fluid and other fluids, and you're starting to feel heavy. Plus, your body will need up to 9 more pounds of fat to use as energy reserves during pregnancy and lactation.

2. Exercise regularly

Don't assume that pregnancy is a good time to suspend your gym membership. It's important to remain physically active for your own health and that of your baby. Hitting the treadmill or attending pregnancy yoga keeps your body strong, can help prevent gestational diabetes, and can help you avoid gaining too much weight, which can lead to a too-big baby. Regular exercise also prepares you for the ultimate workout: labor and delivery.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women (who have received their provider's approval to work out) exercise moderately for at least 20 to 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. Unfortunately, many moms-to-be aren't exercising this much.

"A lot of my patients tell me they're not active at all," says Eleana Kaidanian, a New York registered dietitian who counsels pregnant women.

Kaidanian recommends fitting in exercise whenever and however you can. "Even if it's just 10 minutes of walking around your apartment after each meal, that's 30 minutes you weren't doing before."

3. Drink water

The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink 10 8-ounce glasses of water or other beverages each day. (If it's warm out or you're exercising, drink even more.)

When Kaidanian asks her pregnant patients what they drink when they're thirsty, more often than not, they list soda, juice, or coffee. However, it's best to keep caffeine and sugar to a minimum during your pregnancy. (Even 100 percent fruit juice contains a lot of natural sugars.)

"Water is the best source of hydration," says Kaidanian. If you're not tracking your fluid ounces, just tote a water bottle with you wherever you go and sip throughout the day until your urine is clear or pale yellow in color – a sign of proper hydration.

If plain water isn't appealing – or is even nauseating – try sparkling water with various flavors (like lemon, orange, and berry) or water with a squeeze of lemon. Or make spa water: Keep a pitcher of tap water in the fridge and add cut oranges, apples, or other fruit to infuse it with subtle flavor.

4. Be diligent about prenatal vitamins

I forgot. It's too big. I don't like it.

Kaidanian hears a lot of reasons for skipping a daily prenatal vitamin and accepts none of them. Just take yours, she says, because prenatal vitamins are a nearly effortless way to ensure you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need. Many women's diets are deficient in vitamin D and iron as well as folic acid, which is critical in the prevention of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

"It's hard to meet your nutrient intake every day for every single nutrient unless you're planning out specifically what you need for your body, and most people are not doing that," says Kaidanian. "They make so many kinds of prenatal vitamins now – chewables, gummies, and even mini vitamins for those who find them hard to swallow – there's really no excuse."

5. Avoid gaining too much

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy increases your risk for gestational diabetes and birth complications such as c-section delivery and tearing.

Excess weight gain can lead to a larger baby, which can make for a harder delivery, says Daniel Roshan, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in New York City and an assistant professor at New York University.

"We try to keep our c-section rate down, so we really emphasize diet," says Roshan. If an expecting mom is eating unhealthily, he says, "it's like the baby is sitting around having chocolate all day. He gets chubby. When it comes time for delivery, it's harder for him to come out, so there's a bigger chance of complications."

6. Eat small meals

When you're nauseated, the thought of a large meal can really turn your stomach. And later in pregnancy, as your baby crowds your stomach and other digestive organs, eating even a fairly modest amount of food at one time can be uncomfortable.

Feel free to focus on eating frequent mini-meals. "Eating small meals often helps because it constantly keeps a little bit of something in your stomach and keeps your blood sugar even," says Ashley Roman, director of the New York University Maternal Fetal Care Center.

7. Snack smart

Stock your kitchen with healthy staples so you can easily grab good-for-you snacks. Wash fresh fruit ahead of time and keep portioned bags of trail mix in your desk at work. String cheese and whole grain crackers are satisfying too. Try whipping up a batch of smoothie over the weekend, then freezing it in individual jars.

At night, stick a jar in the fridge to defrost. Come morning, add some wheat germ or flax seed and call it breakfast.

"Every bite when you're pregnant is impacting your baby, so if you can include nutrition, you'll feel better about snacking," says dietitian Jessica Corwin.

8. Learn to substitute

It's fine to give into your food cravings in moderation, but it's smart to give them healthier tweaks – especially if they're becoming frequent items on your menu.

For example, if you regularly yearn for pizza, follow Ellie Krieger's lead and make pizza on a whole-grain English muffin with part-skim cheese, tomato sauce, and spinach. "I craved pizza constantly," says Krieger, who hosted Food Network's Healthy Appetite and is the author of Weeknight Wonders. "That hit the spot without going all out and having a big, greasy slice each day."

Craving chocolate? Krieger suggests stirring a tablespoon of cocoa powder and a bit of sugar into a glass of warm, low-fat milk. "You get the antioxidant bonus from the cocoa and calcium from the milk, it's the perfect snack size – about 200 calories, and it's filling."

Bonnie Rochman is a health writer who is at work on a book about how genetics is reshaping childhood.

Watch the video: Nutrition u0026 Fitness Before u0026 During Pregnancy (May 2022).

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