Congratulations! You’re expecting! In all the rush of pregnancy emotions and concerns and planning, you’re likely wondering what needs to change. Specifically, what do you need to change about how you care for your body, now that it’s caring for two.
Wellness during pregnancy
While every woman’s pregnancy is unique, and everyone’s path to wellness is different, there are some common ground rules for how to adapt to the nutritional and physical needs of your changing body and baby’s development. We’ll take a quick look at how your diet may need to adapt, what vitamins and supplements you’ll need to take, and what to do about workouts.
How to eat when you’re pregnant
“Eating for two” sounds like fun, and is the perfect excuse for having that extra brownie. But are you *really* eating for two? Not really. (Sorry to spoil the fun!)
Some of you in the first trimester may be too busy trying to keep down anything at all, much less eating double. Hang in there!
For the ladies who do have an appetite: You should know that your body doesn’t really require extra calories until the second and third trimesters. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (remember them from this post?) your baseline caloric intake is plenty for the first trimester. In the second trimester, they recommend an additional 340 calories and 450 additional calories in the third.
As far as what you should be eating, there are pretty straightforward guidelines on that as well.
What not to eat when pregnant:
- Alcohol (you probably knew this already — it is toxic, after all)
- Soft cheese (unpasteurized milk could have listeria lurking within)
- Undercooked meats (may harbor toxoplasma and other bacteria)
- Fresh juice (because it’s unpasteurized, it may contain salmonella, E. coli, etc.)
- Sushi (raw seafood can introduce harmful parasites and bacteria)
- Deli meats (listeria can grow on cold cuts in your fridge – if you must have cold cuts, microwave them and eat them hot!)
- Any products with raw eggs (salmonella. Need I say more?)
The list could go on forever, but the bottom line is this: If it’s raw, unpasteurized, or otherwise especially prone to growing bacteria, skip it to be on the safe side. Even if you usually enjoy these items, the less risk you introduce to your body during pregnancy, the better!
What about caffeine?
Many women prefer to steer clear of caffeine altogether. By the same token, many cling tight to their one permitted 12-ounce cup. There’s evidence that a moderate amount of caffeine is safe, so a good rule of thumb is to stay on the safe side of moderate, or simply do what feels safest for you. You can also explore low- and no-caffeine options for your morning cup here.
So what should I eat during pregnancy?
So glad you asked! As usual, you need to fuel your body with sustaining, nutrient-dense foods. But the quantities of certain parts of your diet might need to shift. Here’s what UCSF Health says are the recommended prenatal dietary guidelines:
- 60 grams of protein per day, or roughly 20-25% of your total calories
- Carbohydrates based on your level of health — 40-50% of your total intake is normal
- 25-35% of daily calories from healthy fats — your body needs more fats during pregnancy
- 20-35 grams of fiber daily
In the process of meeting the above dietary needs, you’re welcome to eat as much whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, lean and safe meats, and nuts as your heart desires!
Let’s be honest: You’ll probably spring for pickles, chips, and ice cream a couple of times. That’s ok, too (in moderation).
Vitamins and supplements for a healthy pregnancy
In their dietary requirements for pregnant women, the UCSF Health also recommends that you:
- Increase folic acid consumption to 600 micrograms a day
- Consume 27 milligrams of iron a day — unless anemic, in which case you may need up to 60 milligrams
- Ensure you get around 11 milligrams of zinc
- Get roughly 1000 milligrams of calcium (should not be taken at the same time as iron or prenatal vitamin)
Prenatal vitamins and supplements are an excellent way to help make sure you’re getting your daily value of required vitamins and nutrients without constantly checking labels and doing math.
In the Internet age, all the hard work of research has pretty much been done for you: If you want to shop the top-recommended prenatal supplements of 2022, this Dietician-and-Doctor-approved article by beauty and lifestyle publication Byrdie, lists the best prenatal vitamins recommended by a dietician.
For availability, affordability, convenience, and quality, Nature Made’s Prenatal Multi with DHA is a clear winner. It provides key vitamins and minerals like folic acid and iron, as well as 200 mg of DHA omega-3 fatty acid in a single, easy-to-swallow softgel. It’s formulated to ensure proper nutrient absorption and provides a full vitamin profile including all 8 B vitamins as well as fat soluble vitamins A, C, D, E, and K.
What about my workouts? Should I work out when pregnant?
It’s totally okay to work out while pregnant. If you’re active, you should be able to continue the activities you enjoy well into your pregnancy. If you listen to your body, avoid overexertion, and quit certain activities when they become uncomfortable or no longer physically safe.
In fact, there are strong benefits to working out while pregnant:
- Lower risk of childbirth complications, like unplanned C-sections
- Improved mental health and sleep
- Lower fatigue
- Improved fetal heart strength
- Improved fetal insulin sensitivity
- Improved fetal brain function
Rule #1: Keep pregnancy workouts safe
Gentle aerobic activities like walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga are all great, low-risk activities to continue to enjoy throughout pregnancy. The more active among us (skiiers, crossfitters and weightlifters, fighters, etc.) may need to modify or pause certain activities altogether.
(Women who lift: there are definitely prenatal programs out there for you! Check out Plus+1 by trainer Meg Gallagher for starters.)
And that’s it! It’s a wild world out there, full of rules, contradictions, and mountains of advice, but hopefully this quick overview helps give you a solid start.