If a visit to your doctor has confirmed that you are pregnant, you probably already know that you will have to make a number of lifestyle changes. The way you exercise, work, enjoy time off, and even sleep may change, but one aspect of your life that may go through the biggest change is the way you eat. If you are newly pregnant and want to ensure that your growing baby gets all the nutrients it needs, there are four steps you can take to creating an effective pregnancy diet that will benefit both you and your unborn child.
1. Work Closely With Your Doctor
Before you make any changes to your diet, it is important that you talk to your doctor about what foods you plan to add and which you plan to stop eating. He or she can also advise you about which foods contain the nutrients your growing baby will need, especially in the first trimester. Only your doctor can prescribe the proper amount of daily vitamins and elements such as folic acid, which is a nutrient that reduces the chances of birth defects like spina bifida.
Once you understand which nutrients and vitamins are most likely to support a healthy pregnancy, you can begin to build a diet that includes foods that are rich in those elements. However, as your pregnancy advances, it is a good idea to continue to discuss nutrition with your doctor at each visit so you can make adjustments and changes as needed.
2. Consider Your Current Diet
Once you have all the facts about what constitutes a healthy pregnancy diet, it is time to make the initial changes and consider whether your current diet will need to undergo any radical adjustments if you will only need to add or take away a few foods. For example, if you are a vegan, you will have to be concerned about anemia, which is the result of a lack of protein in the diet, and find ways to prevent it.
If your current diet could use some fine tuning when it comes to reducing sugar and salt intake, this is a good time to do so. During pregnancy, a diet high in sugar could cause additional weight gain and the development of type II diabetes. A low-sugar diet may also help prevent gestational diabetes. A lower sodium intake may prevent uncomfortable bloating, swelling and lower your blood pressure.
3. Start Shopping
The next to step to creating a healthy pregnancy diet is to fill your fridge and pantry with nutritious foods. Your nutritional needs might vary depending on which trimester you are in, but in the early stages of pregnancy, stock up on low-sugar cereal, lentils, and spinach, all of which are rich in folic acid. If you are craving meat, choose lean selections that are packed with protein and iron, and if you are experiencing stomach upset, which is most common in the first trimester, fill your fridge with plain yogurt.
Just as there are foods that will support your pregnancy, there are a few you should avoid as well. While eating fish will supply your body with nourishing omega-3 fatty acids, some types of fish may be potentially dangerous during pregnancy. Choose cold water fish like salmon and trout but avoid tuna, swordfish, and mackerel, especially in canned form. Try making a salmon spread with Hampton Creek. Just Mayo, which is made with pea protein instead of eggs, for a safe and healthy meal.
4. Crush Your Cravings
While not everyone experiences food cravings during pregnancy, they can be difficult to deal with when they do hit. However, there are several ways you can beat them. One of the most effective ways is to have healthy prepared snacks, such as carrot sticks with almond butter spread or cantaloupe slices, ready to grab. Most cravings are more about the oral satisfaction than the actual flavors, so you might be surprised that almost any healthy snack will satisfy them.
If you must absolutely give into your craving, then think small. Have a mini ice cream cone or a few squares of your favorite chocolate bar instead of eating the whole thing. This will help you avoid post-cravings guilt and help you practice the moderation you will need to practice throughout your pregnancy.
Creating a healthy pregnancy diet might seem challenging at first, but since the health of your unborn child is no doubt at the top of your concerns during this exciting time, the time you take to do so can be highly rewarding.