If you’re planning to have a baby in the near future, now is the perfect time to think about the foods – and drinks – you are consuming. In fact, experts say the best time to think about your diet during pregnancy is before you become pregnant.
“Ideally, your nutritional status and recommended weight gain should be discussed with your health care provider prior to your pregnancy,” says Dr. Samuel Bauer, who specializes in maternal fetal medicine at Beaumont Health System.
If that’s not possible, Bauer says setting goals early in your pregnancy is very important. “Establish a nutrition plan, eat three well-balanced meals and three snacks.”
Bauer debunks the old “eating for two” myth, as well. Doctors now advise a weight gain range from 25 to 35 pounds. Your individual recommended weight gain will depend on your pre-pregnancy weight, Bauer says. If you are overweight when you become pregnant, a recommended weight gain may only be 11 to 20 pounds.
What to eat while pregnant
During pregnancy, Bauer suggests a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fat, which means a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Bauer also notes that you need more iron and calcium. Plus, including servings of dairy products is important for supplying needed calcium, as well as Vitamin D.
Prenatal vitamins are usually recommended during pregnancy, as well. Bauer says folic acid (folate) is important for pregnant women. Folate helps prevent certain defects of the spine and brain.
What not to eat when pregnant
Although not a food, most doctors discourage alcohol during pregnancy. Bauer agrees and adds that pregnant women should not smoke.
Due to the risks of certain diseases, Bauer notes that pregnant women should avoid eating uncooked meats, deli meats, hot dogs, sushi and raw fish – “also avoid unpasteurized dairy products and juices,” he says.
Whether or not to eat fish during your pregnancy is a common question. Some fish contain high levels of mercury, especially swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish – and should be avoided during pregnancy and childbearing years.
“Avoid those larger fish that eat other fish,” Bauer says. Both the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Food and Drug Administration advise that fresh water fish can be eaten during pregnancy if no more than 12 ounces a week are consumed.
Doctors also recommend that pregnant women limit caffeine. Typical caffeine sources include coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Sticking to a maximum of 1 cup of coffee or a large glass of ice tea daily is best.
What about morning sickness? “If you are having nausea and vomiting in your first trimester (the first 12 weeks) eat smaller meals more often,” Bauer says. “Stay hydrated with water, popsicles or frozen juice.”
Time honored foods like crackers, pretzels or dry cereal can help if you suffer morning sickness.
Eating wholesome meals and snacks every day is key to helping you stay healthy and giving your baby the best possible start in life.
This post was originally published in 2014 and his updated regularly.