By Carolina Sierra, MS, CNS, Nutrition Services Coordinator
During pregnancy, your body will go through many physiological changes to enable the development of a healthy baby. You can support these changes and promote positive pregnancy outcomes by eating nutritious foods, sleeping well, reducing stress, and staying active.
Take the first steps toward better nutrition:
1. My Pregnancy Plate: Pregnant women should focus on lean/plant-based protein, whole grains, and a variety of vegetables and fruits, according to this recommended pregnancy plate.
- Protein: Choose sources such as poultry, beans, nuts, low-mercury seafood (e.g., tuna, king mackerel, swordfish, tilefish), eggs, tofu, or low-fat cheese. Limit red meat and avoid processed meats and cold cuts.
- Whole grains: Choose whole wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice, oats, beans, and lentils. Limit white bread, fried potatoes, and other refined grains.
- Vegetables and fruits: Aim to eat a rainbow of colors; more color means more micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) you and your baby need. Aim to eat 5 cups daily. Include vegetables and fruits in your meals or add them to smoothies, snacks, or rice and pasta dishes.
- Fats: Choose small amounts of healthy oils (e.g., olive, pressed canola, avocado) and other sources of unsaturated fats such as nuts, salmon, and avocados.
2. Vitamins and minerals, let’s keep them in check:
- Folate or folic acid is a very important vitamin that reduces the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. A pregnant woman should take a prenatal vitamin that provides 600 micrograms of folic acid, and maintain a diet high in folate foods such as spinach, fortified cereals, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, avocados, eggs, and black-eyed peas.
- Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. Pregnant women need 2.6 micrograms of B12 daily through eating poultry, eggs, low-fat yogurt and milk, nutritional yeast, trout, and salmon.
- Vitamin D is important for your baby’s growth and addition of calcium to bones. Infants born to vitamin D-deficient women can be smaller than average, have low blood calcium levels, and have poorly calcified bones. Pregnant women need 5 micrograms daily through eating low-fat dairy options, fortified non-dairy milks such as soy/almond, eggs, fortified orange juice, and salmon. Sun exposure is also very important for proper absorption of this vitamin, for at least 15 minutes twice a week. Note: women with darker skin need 2 to 5 times this length of exposure.
- Calcium is essential for skeletal mineralization especially during the third trimester. Pregnant women need 1 gram daily through eating low-fat dairy and fortified non-dairy options, tofu, broccoli, leafy greens, and sardines.
How about my lifestyle?
Sleep: Sleeping through the night can be very challenging during pregnancy, yet sleep is very important to maintain a strong immune system, regulate blood glucose, and decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure). If you are experiencing sleep issues, try:
- Finding the best position that suits your sleep
- Keeping your room cool, dark, and quiet
- Practicing a calming activity before bed such as a warm bath, reading, or listening to soothing music
- Avoiding heavy meals, spicy foods, and caffeine before going to bed
- Drinking plenty of water through the day and limiting intake of fluids before going to bed
Exercise: Daily movement and activity can help you maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy and reduce risk of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. Engage in activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, or dancing 2 to 5 times per week for 30 minutes.
Avoid toxins: Smoking and drinking are not considered safe during pregnancy. Both can adversely affect your baby. Miscarriages, low birth weight, facial deformations, and behavioral and intellectual disabilities can occur if you sustain these activities during pregnancy. Avoidance is the best tactic to reduce the risk of serious birth defects and health conditions.
You’re not in this alone – Mary’s Center is here to help!
Keeping track of everything you need to do for a healthy pregnancy can feel overwhelming, but Mary’s Center is here to support you.
We provide compassionate care to ensure your and your baby’s overall wellness. Mothers-to be and their support person(s) can expect:
- Access to our Centering Pregnancy program, a very successful group-care model for pregnant women
- Access to our state-of-the-art Sonography Clinic in Adams Morgan
- Help developing a personalized birth plan, so you feel calm and confident about your labor and delivery
- Regular check-ups, evaluations, and screenings to monitor your health and your baby’s health and development
- Resources and information about each stage of pregnancy, labor and delivery, lactation, postpartum care and follow-up, and proper nutrition and exercise.
Learn more about our prenatal services here and call today at 844-796-2797 to make an appointment. We accept most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare. If you don’t have health insurance, we’ll help you apply for public benefits or provide care at a discount.