For most people, it’s hard to eat a healthy, nutritious daily diet, but for nine months, moms-to-be have to be extra cautious of what they put on their plates.
Pregnancy gives women a golden ticket to take care of their bodies’ and their growing babies’ needs. Dr. Nadine Bolger, obstetrician and clinical instructor in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, says a healthy diet consists of 15 to 20 percent protein, 55 to 60 percent carbohydrates and less than 30 percent fats—mostly the unsaturated kind.
"If you follow some of these fairly easy principles, you don’t need to worry so much," she says.
Protein sources include lean meats, poultry, beans and nuts; carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, pasta and rice; and healthy fats include avocados and extra virgin olive oil.
Although fish is a good source of lean protein, pregnant women need to be concerned about mercury, which can be toxic to a developing fetus. Bolger suggests avoiding bigger fish like shark or mackerel which tend to have higher levels of the toxin.
In addition to protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, Bolger says women should eat lots of foods filled with fiber and drink 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily to ward off constipation. She says about 1,000 milligrams extra of calcium and a folic acid supplement might be useful.
"A healthy diet should account for all the nutrition you need," she says.
And despite cravings, pregnant women shouldn’t gorge on empty-calories—about 100 to 300 calories more a day is enough for a growing fetus.
"You want to be conscious of your overall weight gain," she says.
It’s also important to eat small meals throughout the day to prevent low blood sugar.
Bolger suggests pregnant women keep in mind one key tip for continuous proper nutrition.
"Have a good, healthy diet before pregnancy," she says.