by Elizabeth McMillan
“I’m eating for two?” This is a common saying during pregnancy, however it is often misinterpreted. Although one person is eating for two, the second growing being ranges from the size of a sesame seed to a watermelon—not a full-sized adult woman. Caloric intake should increase since growing a baby takes a lot of work but, on average, pregnant mamas only need to consume an extra 300 calories a day. Nutrient-dense food should be more of a priority because from the moment after conception to birth and beyond, every chemical connection takes several nutrients. There are some specific nutrients to focus on while pregnant.
Water is considered the neglected nutrient. It is vital for proper flow of the nutrients throughout the body. Most people do not consume enough water daily, pregnant or not. The adult body is supposed to be about 65 percent water, and the need for water increase with pregnancy. Water intake can come from raw fruits and vegetables; however, the majority should come from pure filtered water. Most other drinks contain sugar or caffeine that decrease one’s hydration levels. Aim to drink at least 12 eight-ounce glasses a day during pregnancy.
Carbohydrates serve as the main source of energy for the body, but there is a difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs should be limited as they are metabolized into sugar very quickly. Complex carbs provide a greater source of energy and are found in rice, potatoes, oats, whole grains and fibrous vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, spinach and mushrooms. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate and should be a staple in a pregnancy diet.
Fats are essential for building new cells—especially in the brain. There are healthy fats like the essential fatty acids, and unhealthy fats like trans and saturated fats. Good sources of essential fatty acids include nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish, leafy vegetables and olive oil. These essential fatty acids, often called omega- 3s, 6s and 9s are also important for the metabolism of our fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Proteins are made up of amino acids and help build the code that interprets our DNA. On average, we need to consume 1 gram per kilogram of body weight of protein daily. Most of us actually consume far more protein than we actually need. Good quality sources of protein include nuts, seeds, legumes, wild fish, organic dairy, eggs and meats.
While all the vitamins and minerals are essential for growing babies, there are some that deserve some extra attention. Fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and D are essential for organ development and immune function. Vitamin A is found abundantly in bright colored fruits and vegetables. Vitamin D can be synthesized from the sun, however using sunscreen blocks this synthesis. It is best to supplement with vitamin D during pregnancy. The B vitamins like 6, 12 and folate, are especially important in the beginning of pregnancy. These nutrients help with brain development, cell division, nervous system development and assimilating macronutrients. Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant and helpful in protein synthesis. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc are also essential for growing a baby.
Remember you and your growing baby are what you eat. The nutrients you ingest on a daily basis serve as the building blocks for your developing baby. Focusing on a whole-foods diet, one that is comprised of real foods from the earth—no nutrition labels required, will ensure that you are getting all the essential nutrients. Pregnancy is an inspiring time to start to focus on how food decisions effect your health—and your baby’s.
Elizabeth McMillan, CNS, LDN is an integrative nutritionist at Rose Wellness.