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Essential Pregnancy Nutrition

Jun 7 2021
4 min read
close-up of pregnant woman eating salad

Expecting a baby is an extraordinary experience filled with incredible changes and developments...

...and lots of questions, especially about good nutrition during pregnancy.

While your baby’s caloric requirements are relatively low right now, his or her need for the nutrients that encourage growth and development is tremendous. With this in mind, we prefer to focus on the importance of nourishing rather than eating for two, shifting the emphasis off quantity and placing it firmly on quality nutrition – a philosophy we encourage throughout your life, not just pregnancy.

Though everyone’s needs may differ, and you should speak more about yours with your obstetrician, there are some key recommended daily nutrient goals to keep in mind. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, pregnant women should meet these goals through a combination of diet and prenatal supplements.

Calcium

You and your baby need strong, healthy bones, so getting a substantial daily dose of calcium is a must during pregnancy. Aim for 1,000 – 1,200 milligrams per day, which you can get from milk, dark leafy greens, almonds, calcium-fortified juices, yogurt, cheese, and cooked salmon. For safety reasons, avoid unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses, like Brie and feta. Limit your seafood consumption to no more than 12 ounces, or about two meals, per week; avoid fish that contain high mercury levels, such as king mackerel, swordfish, shark, and tilefish; and limit albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week.

Folate and Folic Acid

These are usually the first nutrients that are mentioned when discussing pregnancy nutrition. A synthetic form of the B vitamin folate, folic acid helps prevent brain and spinal cord abnormalities and decreases the risk of low birth weight. It is recommended that women begin consuming 400 – 800 micrograms daily before conception and continue with this amount throughout pregnancy. Orange juice, dark leafy greens, beans, and peas are all good sources of natural folate, and folic acid is a star ingredient in prenatal supplements.

Iron

Your blood volume rises during pregnancy – enough to support a whole new life! Getting a sufficient amount of iron, which the body uses to create hemoglobin (a protein that carries oxygen), is essential.

Having enough of this mineral also helps keep your energy levels high and your risk of infections low. Try eating fortified cereals and lean red meat or turkey in order to get the recommended 30 milligrams each day. Just make sure that all meats are cooked thoroughly.

Magnesium

Getting 320 milligrams of daily magnesium can help build and repair your body’s tissues, as well as aid in preventing early contractions and low birth weight. Wheat germ, wheat bran, soybeans, quinoa, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds are all good sources of magnesium.

Protein

Crucial for your baby’s growth, protein is a particularly important part of good nutrition in the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy. You should aim to consume 71 grams of protein each day, which can be found in things like lean meat, fish, eggs, poultry, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Avoid cold cuts and undercooked eggs.

Vitamin D

Another bone-strengthening nutrient, vitamin D fortifies teeth, so getting enough of it during pregnancy can help your baby have a healthy smile down the road. Aim for 600 international units (IU) each day. Vitamin D can be found in enriched or fortified juices, cereals, dairy products, and fatty fish, including cooked salmon and canned light tuna. You can also get a solid dose of vitamin D from brief exposure to sunlight, so consider your daily walk an effort that helps you meet both your activity and nutrition goals during pregnancy.

Zinc

Zinc supports baby’s growth and development during pregnancy and can also help keep your immune system strong. Get your recommended 11 milligrams a day from sources like almonds, pumpkin seeds, cooked shellfish, lean meats, and oatmeal.