From mommy blogs to nutrition experts, it seems as if everyone has an opinion on what’s safe and best to eat and drink during pregnancy. According to the National Library of Medicine, most women need at least 300 calories more daily during the last six months of pregnancy than they did before they were pregnant.
Being confident in your food choices during pregnancy can be a little bit complicated. To help sort through the confusion, we talked with Dr. Candace Howe, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist at HM Medical in Newport Beach.
Q: What does the ideal pregnancy diet look like?
A: Per day, protein should be at 75 to 100 grams with 1-2 cups of legumes, 1-2 cups of whole grains, 2-3 cups of vegetables and 1-2 cups of fruits.
Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about diet and pregnancy?
A: A big misconception from the media is that pregnant women’s [unhealthy] cravings should be indulged – for example, ice cream, desserts and sweets. There is now substantial scientific research to show that the food we eat on a daily basis affects how our bodies work. It also determines basic nutritional health for our children and provides a model for their eating habits during childhood and beyond. Pregnancy is one time when eating habits directly affect another person.
Research shows that metabolic programming happens in utero, so a mother’s healthy nutritional status is extremely important. Focusing on incorporating vegetables, whole grains and legumes, lean protein and other wise food choices will give your baby a strong start in life.
Q: What are the current trends when it comes to food and pregnancy?
A: Many people today are implementing lower carbohydrates in their everyday diet, but it is important to understand that with pregnancy you do not want to go too low. A pregnant woman does require at least 75 milligrams of carbohydrates per day, ideally up to 150 milligrams.
Lower carbohydrate diets create ketone bodies which cross into the placenta and can affect development of the baby. On the other hand, excess carbohydrate intake can also affect development of the fetus. Typically it creates larger babies, and this can then lead to other issues in regard to delivery and care of baby after delivery.
Q: How does caffeine affect pregnancy?
A: Caffeine should be limited. In the first trimester, excess caffeine intake over 500 milligrams per day has been linked with increased miscarriage risk. Therefore this is important for women to know, even prior to getting pregnant. In pregnancy we recommend limiting caffeine to 200 milligrams per day.
Q: What are some common diet questions?
A: Most common questions revolve around weight gain and calorie intake. Many women are careful and want to intake enough calories to provide healthy nutrition for their baby, but also worry about excess calorie intake and want to avoid excess weight gain in pregnancy.
Women are well aware that some foods can cause harm to a developing baby, so those are also very common questions we get as OB-GYNs. All food has to be washed, properly stored and properly prepared. All meats and fish have to be thoroughly cooked to avoid exposure to toxoplasmosis/salmonella and other harmful bacteria.
Q: What are some examples of “bad” and “good” foods to eat?
A: Fried foods and desserts are in the category of “bad” foods. Clean eating with balanced proteins, grains and healthy fats are “good” foods. There are some items that are high in fat but considered healthy and good. For example, avocados, nuts, olive oil and ghee are all high-fat foods that are healthy to consume during pregnancy.
Q: Should women take supplements during pregnancy?
A: Yes, it is recommended to take a prenatal vitamin supplement, which balances adequate amounts of folic acid, iodine, vitamin D and iron to ensure adequate intake. In the third trimester, some women may need to add extra iron or B12 vitamin based on their blood tests, and some women need to add a calcium supplement depending on their intake of calcium-rich foods.
Q: What should pregnant women keep in mind while planning meals?
A: Most important would be to start a healthy diet and exercise plan outside of pregnancy. This way the modifications needed to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen will be easy and effortless while you are pregnant.