There is one constant as a 20-something year old – people are always having babies. If it’s not someone in your family, then it is a coworker, a friend’s sister, or your aunt’s dental hygienist. Before I had my little Liam and was just studying nutrition, I would get the occasional “I’m pregnant! What should I eat?” or “Do I really have to eat for two?” Now that I’m not only a Registered Dietitian but an “experienced” mom (though some days I feel like a complete amateur at this motherhood thing), I get these questions all the time. And it’s not that these women don’t know how to eat. I think questions are asked because as soon as that positive pregnancy test is staring back at you, your motherly instincts kick in and you want to do what’s best for your growing baby.
So you just found out that you are pregnant. What should you eat?
Overall, many of the recommendations for pregnant women remain the same as for the general population: eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, choose whole grain products more often than refined grains, limit foods with added sugar, and favour lean meat/poultry or meatless protein choices over ones high in saturated fat.
But, now that you’re pregnant, your need for calories and most nutrients goes up a bit. The best way to get what you need for you and your baby is to eat nutrient-dense foods. What are nutrient-dense foods? They are the opposite of “empty-calorie” foods. Basically nutrient-dense foods give you the “biggest bang for your buck” – more essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats) for less calories.
If you are not getting enough calories or certain nutrients, your baby’s development may be effected, and he or she may be underweight at birth. But don’t worry – in this series of blog posts on pregnancy, I’ll be discussing recommendations for certain nutrients as well as practical ways to ensure you and your baby are getting enough!
Eating for Two
The “eating for two” (or more!) phrase often confuses new moms. This does not mean you get to eat twice as many calories as you ate before pregnancy. But now that you have two humans to eat for, focus more on those nutrient-dense foods to improve the quality of the diet (e.g., eating less junk food like fries and more whole foods like sweet potatoes). What about calories? In the first trimester, generally you do not need any more calories than before. In the second, you’ll need an additional 340 calories according to the Dietary Reference Intakes. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, the 340 calories may consist of the following:
a) an extra egg at breakfast (80 calories) and
b) a snack before bedtime (to keep the 3 a.m. hunger pangs at bay) including 4 whole
grain crackers (80 calories), 1 ounce gouda cheese (100 calories), and an apple (80
In the third trimester, you need an additional 450 calories daily. So you could add to this:
c) an afternoon snack of a yogurt with a few blueberries on top (100 + 10 calories).
If you want to figure out specifically how many calories a day you need, that is something you will need to discuss with your healthcare provider. They look at a few different things: height-to-weight ratio (BMI), physical activity, appetite, age, medical history, and your rate of weight gain. That being said, not everyone needs to count calories throughout their pregnancy. Just remember to listen to your hunger signals and stop eating when you are full!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be discussing weight gain (and what to do if you are gaining too much or too little) as well as the specifics on nutrient supplementation during pregnancy.
So with all that talk about snacking... here's an easy snack to make that only takes three ingredients! This version of the childhood classic snack, Ants-on-a-Log, uses almond butter! Almond butter is packed with heart-healthy unsaturated fat (7.5 grams per tablespoon) as well as 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fibre in each tablespoon. Fibre and protein keep you feeling satisfied and curb hunger between meals. When at the grocery store, try to choose almond butter with no sugar or salt on the ingredient list.
Total Time: Less than 5 minutes
Yield: 1 serving (three “logs”)
1 celery rib
1-2 tablespoons roasted almond butter (or any other nut or seed butter)
1-2 tablespoons dried fruit (e.g., raisins, cherries, cranberries)
Let's continue the discussion! Have you ever heard of the terms "empty-calorie" or "nutrient-dense" when talking about food? What are your favourite "nutrient-dense" snacks?
Hello, I'm Erin – a follower of Christ, wife, mama of two, and registered dietitian. Welcome to my blog where I write about intentional motherhood, intuitive eating, inspired discipleship, and whatever else I feel like!
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