You’ve probably heard the expression “eating for two” from well meaning friends and family members. But while this doesn’t mean you need to double up on the calories, it is accurate in a way. Every bite of food you put in your body affects not only you, but also your baby. And beyond pregnancy…during breastfeeding…what you eat also can have an effect on your baby.
During pregnancy, your body is working extremely hard to nourish and grow your baby. What you eat during this time is very important. Certain nutrients are essentials. Folic acid, or folate, helps protect against neural tube defects. Dark leafy greens are the best natural source of folate. Most breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid, and you will also be getting some through your prenatal vitamin. Iron is important as well; your blood volume increases by 50% during pregnancy. This increased blood supply helps provide oxygen to your baby. Getting enough iron protects you against issues such as anemia. Red meat, spinach, and beans are all great sources of iron. Another important nutrient is calcium. Calcium helps grow your baby’s bones and teeth, and is especially important during the second and third trimesters. Another big one, omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for helping your baby’s brain and eyes. Fish is a great source…just make sure you follow safe guidelines for how much fish to eat per week and which types are safest.
There are some things you should avoid, or at least try to eat less of, during pregnancy. Some coffee is ok, just don’t overdo it. And don’t forget that cola and tea, and even chocolate, contain caffeine as well. You want to limit yourself to 200 mg a day. Stay away from cold cuts and soft serve ice creams….the danger with both is the risk of contracting listeria. Hot dogs contain nitrates which are not very good for anyone, least of all a developing baby. And alcohol is a definite no during pregnancy. Alcohol can affect your baby, and too much alcohol can cause issues such as fetal alcohol syndrome.
Dealing with nausea and food aversions
But…you threw up breakfast, and the mere thought of anything vegetable-related makes you want to run back to the bathroom. How are you supposed to eat a healthy diet? First things first, try some tricks for easing nausea. Eat something first thing in the morning, before even getting out of bed. Hydrate often, good for both you and your baby. Try bland things rather than heavily seasoned and spiced foods. And finally, cold foods are better than hot ones. Try a smoothie packed with fruit (and, if you can stomach it, a “hidden” vegetable like spinach), some milk for calcium, and ice to thicken it and make it as chilled as possible.
The same rules about healthy eating apply during breastfeeding as well with the exception that there are no hard-and-fast don’ts while breastfeeding. And eating healthy during breastfeeding is arguably more important, because you’re a role model for your baby. As your little one begins eating solid foods, (s)he will see what you’re eating and will (hopefully!) want to follow suit.
Finally, any medications you will be taking should be discussed with your doctor to be sure they are safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some medications may pass through the placenta and affect your baby. During breastfeeding, some medications can pass into your milk in amounts that could affect your baby. Your doctor can help you determine risks vs. benefits. And other medications may reduce milk supply. These are especially risky to take in the early weeks when your milk supply is still adjusting to your baby’s needs and regulating itself.
For more tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, check out the Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Nutrition Guide ebook.
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