Eating for a Healthy Baby
So instead, eat for a healthy baby! According to experts at the National Institute for Health, a healthy pregnancy diet reduces your chances of developing gestational diabetes (high blood sugar), pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and preterm birth.
Also, not eating healthfully can lead to too little weight gain for your baby, increasing your baby’s chances of developing diabetes or heart disease in adulthood. Eating too much can set baby up for childhood obesity and diabetes.
Eat for Baby’s Health Now & In the Future
Your growing baby receives nutrients via the placenta from what you take in. Baby is the last stop at the end of a long food chain; the nutrition from the food you eat determines baby’s growth. Proper nutrition during pregnancy decreases the risk of birthing a too- small or too-large baby.
Struggling to curb bad habits? Research demonstrates that by the second trimester, it’s often too late to change unhealthy dietary behaviors, as most of the potential adverse outcomes have already been set in motion.
Essential Pregnancy Nutrition
There’s no one-size-fits-all diet. Aim for foods high in protein, iron, folate, and calcium. More than 20% of pregnant women suffer from iron-deficiency anemia, which can lead to premature birth and growth restriction for baby, and postpartum hemorrhage for you, mom.
A diet low in folate, especially before pregnancy, can lead to serious birth defects in the brain or spinal cord that develop early in pregnancy. Foods like asparagus and dark leafy greens are both rich in iron and folate. You can get your calcium fix from dairy, nuts, seeds, beans, and those dark leafy greens like spinach and kale.
For vegetarians and vegans, ensure you’re getting protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12, either from food or from supplements, as these nutrients are often lacking in meatless diets. Reduce animal fat and sugar to lower your chance of developing diabetes in pregnancy.
A quick meal of baked fish, sauteed spinach, and brown rice provides the protein, iron, and B vitamins needed by growing baby. Healthy snacks include fruit or veggie smoothies, or cheese, nuts, and grapes.
Getting Enough Iron
Iron helps your body make blood to move oxygen into your cells for energy. During pregnancy, your body needs more iron for your growing baby. Low iron levels are linked to prematurity and low birth weight.
The CDC recommends that all pregnant women begin taking an oral, low-dose iron supplement (30 mg/day) at their first prenatal appointment, and be screened for iron deficiency anemia (IDA).
Ask your healthcare provider to check your iron levels and screen for anemia. During pregnancy, boost your iron by eating leafy green vegetables, strawberries and kiwi, quinoa, legumes, seeds, and iron-rich meats such as beef, turkey, and chicken.
SEE ALSO: Healthy Eating in Pregnancy and Beyond