Nutrition in Pregnancy, Mom, You've Got The Power!
Nutrition in Pregnancy, Mom, You've Got The Power!

Drinking MilkWhen my mother was having children, women waited for a positive pregnancy test to improve their health habits, including their diets.

As it turns out, the sooner you start working on your health before you conceive, the better it is for you, and your child. 

What if I told you it may be possible to head off obesity and other chronic conditions in your child, armed with just a fork? 

Expect the Best

Moms are very influential people.  As the mother of three, and a daughter, I know how moms shape their children in countless ways. Mothers provide love, safety, and stability on a day-to-day basis. 

But a mom’s influence goes well beyond taking care of her child once delivery day arrives. Mom’s lifestyle during pregnancy, and before conception, sets the stage for her child’s health as a youngster and adult.

Research suggests that what you eat during pregnancy, and even before, has a bearing on your child’s chances for becoming overweight, and for developing conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure in their later years. 

When you’re expecting, a healthy diet nourishes your baby with the right amount of nutrients to ensure proper growth and development, which, as it turns out, influences the risk for health problems in adulthood. 

Regular physical exercise during pregnancy (30 minutes a day of moderate activity, with your doctor’s OK), and before, helps future moms achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and has other benefits, such as keeping blood pressure in check, and reducing stress.

Conceiving a child at the healthiest weight possible, and gaining the recommended number of pregnancy pounds, are powerful strategies for reducing the risk of having children who become overweight as toddlers.

Get the Most Nutrition for The Calories

According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women don’t get enough calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and iron, largely because their diets are short on nutrient-rich foods and long on fattier foods that provide fewer nutrients. 

Pregnant, nursing, or not, get the most nutrition for your calories by including more nutrient-rich foods, such as whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta, lean protein foods, non-fat and low-fat dairy foods, seafood, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, at meals and snacks, and feed them to your kids, too. 

Pregnancy Nutrition

All nutrients are important for a healthy pregnancy, but some are more important than others. For example, folic acid, found in fortified grains and in dietary supplements, is vital for protecting against neural tube defects, including spina bifida, during the first month after conception.  Because it’s difficult to determine when pregnancy will occur, women in their childbearing years should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day from dietary supplements or fortified grains.

Iron is another crucial nutrient. Many women don’t get enough iron before pregnancy occurs. Once you’re pregnant your iron needs increase and aren’t usually satisfied with food alone. Take a multivitamin daily with 100% of the Daily Value for iron and folic acid to get two of the many nutrients you need before and during pregnancy. 

For more information on pregnancy nutrition, read Elizabeth’s latest book, Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy

Elizabeth M. Ward, Registered Dietitian

1. World Health Organization. Essential nutrition actions: Improving maternal, newborn, infant and young child health and nutrition. 2013. 

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preconception Health and Health Care Web site. Washington DC. Nutrition. Accessed March 27, 2015. 

3. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Website. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Website. Accessed March 27, 2015. 

Positive Approach

Do you know what foods you should be eating? Start with the Healthy Eating Planner to make a plan for eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods.