There’s a big list of foods you can’t eat while you’re pregnant, including alcohol, sushi, certain cheeses, and processed meats. But what should you add to your pregnancy diet? We asked expert Dr. Yvonne Bohn, a mother, OB/GYN, former doctor of the Discovery channel’s show Deliver Me, and chief medical officer at Mommi, LLC. Dr. Bohn’s work centers around her firm belief in preventative health, moderation, being fit and eating well. Here’s what Dr. Bohn had to say about the optimal pregnancy diet:
“Pregnant woman have specific dietary needs and physiologic problems that come from hormonal changes in their bodies to support their pregnancy but also the growing baby also depletes the mother’s body while she is pregnant. As a physician I prefer that my patients get as much of their vitamins, amino acids, fiber etc… from their food sources instead of from tablets, pills or supplements. The body always utilizes the important element from food better than from a supplement. The following are excellent food sources that will provide the same benefits to your body and baby instead of taking any of the supplements on the market.”
As early as 2 weeks after conception, some women will experience some type of nausea and as the pregnancy progresses, the nausea intensifies and includes: food aversions, vomiting, anorexia, and in severe cases vomiting to the point of dehydration requiring hospitalization and intravenous fluid hydration and nutritional supplementation. These symptoms usually reach their peak at 12 weeks gestation and usually subside. In rare cases they may persist for the remainder of the pregnancy.
Despite all of our scientific research and pharmaceutical technology, we have failed to develop a medicine that will significantly reduce morning sickness. But there is a natural source that has been scientifically proven to reduce nausea and vomiting and that is GINGER! Ginger in the form of tea, crystalized ginger, ginger ale, or pigmented ginger can reduce nausea.
The hormones of pregnancy slow the time it takes for food to travel through the stomach and intestines. This slowing allows more water to be removed from the stool resulting in bloating and constipation. Raspberries have more fiber per serving than bananas, strawberries, apples or pears. If raspberries aren’t your cup of tea, then try blackberries or blueberries as they are also high in fiber! Try this Berry, Avocado, and Kale Salad.
Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil are a hot topic in nutrition because they have been shown to help with heart health and brain health in adults. But studies have also shown that mothers who took high levels of DH(docosahexaenoic acid) during pregnancy and continued to have it during breast feeding proved to help improve cognition in their children and also helped with eye development. Most prenatal vitamins contain between 200-300mg of DHA. A 3-ounce serving of salmon contains over 600 mg of DHA which is two times the amount that is found in most prenatal vitamins. It also contains over 900 IU of vitamin D which is also over twice the amount that is found in most prenatal vitamins. As I stated earlier, it is better to consume DHA through diet than a supplement. Other oily fish like sardines also contain high levels of DHA.
Pregnant women may experience anemia or iron depletion because as the baby grows, the pregnancy requires more blood volume to support the growing baby and will deplete iron stores in the mother and may cause anemia. Iron-rich foods are recommended and if these are not adequate, then iron supplements may be recommended.
Most people think of eating steak or red meat when they want to increase the iron in their diet but suprinsingly one cup of cooked lentils has 3 times as much iron as a T-bone steak. They also contain 16 gms of dietary fiber which is more than half of the recommended amount of recommended for women, which is 25 gms/day. The added benefit of fiber will help with constipation.
This vegetable has three times as much iron as a T-bone steak. It also has as much calcium as in a cup of milk for those who are lactose-intolerant. Again, pregnant women need iron, fiber, and calcium and all of these things are abundant in spinach. Try this Green Smoothie made with spinach, apple, yogurt, and ginger.
6. Almonds, Cashews, Nuts
Most pregnant women feel nausea, food cravings, and hunger. These symptoms drive pregnant women to reach for carbohydrates to reduce these cravings. Consuming large quantities of carbohydrates leads to rapid fluctuations in blood sugar which can cause hypoglycemic reactions such as dizziness, sweating, nausea and near fainting episodes, gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain, and excessively large infants at birth. Choosing a handful of your favorite nuts will curb your hunger, sustain your blood sugar longer, and provide your body with fiber, protein, and iron. Rethink your snack – instead of grabbing a donut or a slice of bread, go for a serving of your favorite nuts.
7. Citrus fruits
As I said above, pregnant women are at increased risk for anemia and iron depletion. Iron absorption is improved if taken with vitamin C. So try to eat an orange or grapefruit right before taking your iron supplement, or add these fruits to your spinach salad.
All reproductive age women need at least 1200-1500 mg of calcium daily. Most prenatal vitamins contain very small amounts of calcium. Therefore, all pregnant women should either eat calcium-rich foods or take an additional calcium supplement. An 8-ounce serving of yogurt has almost 350mg of calcium. Most yogurts have probiotics added to them which also helps digestion and reduces constipation.
Just remember: your body only needs about 300 calories extra per day to grow your baby and help it develop. The above foods are low in calories and help prevent excessive weight gain. Get creative with your foods: make a spinach salad and add some berries, nuts, salmon and mix it with a citrus yogurt dressing and you will be on your way to healthy low calorie eating.
If the superfoods that I recommend aren’t things you can eat or stomach while pregnant, then our Mommi 3-in-1 supplement contains the recommended amount of folic acid, vitamins and minerals, DHA, and protein that a pregnant woman needs daily to help grow her baby. It is also low in calories and will provide the needed amount of calories needed for your baby’s development.
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