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Tips For Growing a Healthy Baby Bump

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Realizing you are pregnant is an incredibly exciting and scary time. You’re overwhelmed with feelings of joy and fear, simultaneously. You already only want what’s best for your growing baby and that may start with improving your nutrition and eating.

To be honest, if you’re trying to get pregnant, we should be maximizing our meal plans now rather than waiting until we actually see the double line on the pregnancy test. You don’t have to be perfect, but it is important to be mindful and intentional with your food choices.

Everyone always talks about “eating for two” and how you can eat “anything you want” but in reality your weight gain during pregnancy has incredibly strong ties to the health of you and your baby.

The Institute of Medicine offers appropriate weight gain recommendations based on your pre-pregnancy BMI.

BMI class = weight gain recommendations during pregnancy:

  • Underweight (less than 18.5) = 28-40 lbs
  • Healthy Weight (18.5-24.9 ) = 25-35 lbs
  • Overweight (25-29.9) = 15- 25 lbs
  • Obese (greater than 30 BMI) = 15 lbs

If you break this down by trimester, it’s roughly a weight increase of just 3-5 pounds during the first trimester and about 1 pound per week for the second and third trimesters.

Your healthcare provider will check your weight status at each check up and can advise if you are gaining too much or too little weight.

The old saying “eating for two” does not literally apply during pregnancy. You do not need to double your calorie intake. In actuality, to meet the weight gain recommendations that only equates to an additional:

  • 150 calories in the 1st trimester
  • 350 calories in the 2nd trimester
  • 450 calories in the 3rd trimester

But real life isn’t as easy as just reading these recommendations. You may deal with “morning sickness” during your pregnancy which makes it hard to eat anything, let along healthy options. You may deal with increased appetite or food carvings which also may make meeting these weight goals challenging.

Ideally, your calorie intake should come from a variety of nutrient-dense foods: whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, and lean proteins.

Choosing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help to ensure not only are you getting enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but it will also help to provide necessary fiber to keep your bowels working well and prevent constipation.

Hydration is also key to helping flush out the good fiber. Half your body weight in fluid ounces should be consumed daily. While water is best, it doesn’t have to be the only source. Unsweetened beverages like coffee and tea can count as well as low sugar yogurt smoothies and can be incorporated as healthy meals or snacks. Your sense of thirst will increase naturally during pregnancy as your fluid needs increase, but I like to recommend to try having a beverage with each meal and also drinking a larger water bottle in between each meal to ensure your fully hydrated well.

If you are concerned about the caffeine in coffee or tea, you can consume ~200 milligrams per day safely. That means you can safely fit in a cup of coffee per day with even 2 cups of tea. Energy drinks should never be consumed during pregnancy and while we’re on the topic of beverages, let’s chat about alcohol.

Sources will differ and while each individual is different, the recommendation is to avoid alcohol during pregnancy due to potential negative behavioral and neurological consequences on the baby. Your practitioner may allow may say it’s safe to consume a glass of wine here or there on occasion, but it’s always best to check with him or her first and when in doubt, avoid it.

There are other foods to avoid or limit during pregnancy, too, and this is where food safety comes into play.

Unpasteurized milks, cheeses, and juices along with uncooked + undercooked foods should be avoided. This includes various raw types of sushi, deli meats or cold cuts, and soft cheeses like brie, feta, blue, and queso fresco.

While it is very likely that in the U.S. all these cheeses are made with pasteurized milk, and are considered safe to eat, even these soft cheeses. But some stores, restaurants, and farmers markets may have some unpasteurized versions that can contain a very harmful and even deadly bacteria called listeria. So your best bet is to always check the label, ask someone, or avoid it just to be safe.

And on the note of seafood, you should consume 12 ounces of heart-healthy omega-3 {DHA + EPA} rich sources of fish or seafood per week. That equates to three 4-ounces portions or two 6- ounce portions. Due to the potential risk of contaminants or mercury from large, bottom feeding fish shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish should be avoided and albacore tuna should be limited to just 6 ounces per week.

Adequate amounts of EPA & DHA consumed during pregnancy {and even lactation} can lead to better brain, eye and even nervous system health for the baby. The recommendation is 300 milligrams per day which can be consumed with salmon, shrimp, tuna, etc or a supplement of just omega 3’s may be helpful to ensure adequate intakes.

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It’s important to note that most multivitamins do not contain enough omega 3’s from EPA + DHA, so that’s why an additional one may be needed. And speaking of vitamins, you should choose a prenatal multivitamin that:

  • Is checked by a 3-rd party organization like USP or NSF.
  • Contains mostly 100% DV for the vitamins and minerals, especially for folic acid, choline, iodine all for good neural tube & brain development.

Make sure to check the expiration date and store the bottle in a cool, dry environment aka not next to your steamy shower or hot oven.

These supplements are considered an insurance policy for pregnancy. Hopefully you won’t need them because your diet is in tip top shape, but they are there just in case.

Due to food preferences, intolerances, & restrictions some minerals like iron and calcium may be lacking in a pregnant women’s nutrition plan.

100% DV of iron and calcium are often not found in supplements as they compete for absorption and will likely need to be taken separately if your blood levels test low for iron and you do not have enough calcium rich sources in your daily meal plan.

To enhance iron absorption for vegans and vegetarians, you should pair your dark leafy greens with vitamin c sources; think spinach salad + strawberries, roasted kale + oranges, steamed broccoli + lemon juice.

To help keep your weight gain in check, maintain healthy muscle mass, keep up your energy, prepare you for the demands of labor, etc…. you should make it a point to exercise at least 30 minutes {if not an hour} every day. There’s a benefit to cardio as well as strength training so just incorporate a variety of activities of things you like. Talk with your doctor if you do any high intense workouts as you don’t want to get your heart rate too elevated.

The take away here is to plan healthful, balanced, and varied meals and snacks to meet your weight gain & nutritional needs. Incorporate daily exercise to help keep your mentally and physical ready for your body’s changes. If you are ever concerned with anything always talk to your doctor health care provider. And if you need guidance to make sure your nutrition plan is adequate always consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

All the best in your magical moments of growing your beautiful baby!


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