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Eating for two: The scoop on pregnancy diets

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Pregnancy induces a myriad of changes on a woman’s body, some more noticeable than others and take time to adjust to. Some soon-to-be mamas struggle with morning sickness, others with constant heartburn – so food and nutrition can be a real struggle.

Pregnancy Diet Basics

Prenatal nutrition is a hot topic, so there is no shortage of trendy diet options. While there’s no shortage of trends, it’s important to follow science, so we asked one of our OB-GYNs what’s safe to eat during pregnancy.

Vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, Paleo, ketogenic (keto), etc., all are wildly popular, have their merits, and may already be a part of your lifestyle. But, are they safe during pregnancy?

“I don’t recommend a particular diet to my patients as there isn’t one that is superior over others. Vegetarian, vegan, Mediterranean and gluten-free are fine, but may take extra planning,” explains Kim Misamore, MD, OB-GYN, on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. “Ketogenic and strict Paleo diets are not recommended for pregnant women.”

If you follow a vegetarian diet, be sure and get plenty of iron, choline and vitamins D and E. Vegans need those as well, in addition to adequate amounts of calcium, DHA/EPA and vitamin B12. A growing number of fortified vegetarian/vegan food options are being fortified to include these nutrients so be sure to read the label.

Gluten-free mamas need to get plenty of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and iron – which can be found in other whole grains. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, Dr. Misamore advises getting 1,000 mg a day of calcium from sources such as broccoli or bok choy, or calcium-fortified beverages such as orange juice, soy, almond and rice milk.

Best practices

Pregnancy is a great excuse to get healthier if you aren’t already mindful of your nutrition. A day of healthy eating should look like this:

2-2 ½ cups of fruit
3-3 ½ cups of vegetables
3 cups of diary
6-10 ounces of grains
6-7 ounces of protein

Water is by far the best thing you can drink during pregnancy. Additionally, lots of veggies will help your growing baby and help decrease constipation.

Diet myths

“Eating for two” has become synonymous with pregnancy, but sadly, it can be misleading. Moms of normal weight having a single baby don’t need to increase their caloric intake during the first trimester. By the second and third trimester, an increase of 350-450 kcal/day is all it takes for appropriate weight gain.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy.

Avoid these foods

Foods high in mercury – which could harm your baby’s developing nervous system – are a big no-no during pregnancy. Typically the bigger and older the fish, the higher the level of mercury it will contain. Avoid: swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish.

Unpasteurized beverages such as milk and juice, as well as soft cheeses such as brie, feta, blue cheese, queso fresco, queso blanco, etc. These products could lead to a foodborne illness. Tip: Look for options that say ‘made with pasteurized milk.’

Deli meats, cold cuts, hot dogs should be avoided unless they are steaming hot to prevent the foodborne illness listeriosis.

Exercise can help

Exercise is an important part of pregnancy and general well-being. Dr. Misamore suggests a goal of 2 ½ hours of exercise each week.

Exercise decreases your risk of gestational diabetes and elevated blood pressure. It can also benefit mom by reducing back pain, constipation and decrease the risk for a C-section delivery. Research has shown a decrease in the frequency of postpartum depression in women who resume physical activity (preferably stress-reducing exercises like yoga and walking) after being cleared by their doctor.

Weight gain guidelines

“Diets during pregnancy should be more about being healthy than restrictive. Pregnancy is not a time to lose weight,” says Dr. Misamore. “A calorie restrictive diet can affect fetal growth and cause some problems with smaller babies.”

How much weight should you gain? It depends on the mother’s starting weight. A woman of normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) should gain 25-35 lbs throughout the entire pregnancy. If starting with a BMI over 30, 11-20 lbs is considered normal. Twins onboard? The goal is closer to 40-45 lbs.

If at all possible, lose weight before becoming pregnant; once at an ideal weight, it will be easier to maintain throughout the pregnancy. Every pregnancy is different, so Dr. Misamore suggests talking with your doctor first before starting a new diet.

Looking for a way to relax during pregnancy? Both Methodist Dallas and Methodist Mansfield offer yoga and other prenatal and postpartum classes