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Nutrition in Pregnancy

We have all heard “Eating for two!” while we are expecting.  This is not a good way to approach our diet during pregnancy, as you can probably guess.  As you may already know, our dietary needs change throughout our pregnancies.  As we talk about our diets, it is also important to continue taking prenatal vitamins for the extra supplements we need, especially folic acid and iron. 

During the first trimester, we don’t really need any extra calories, but the way that we approach eating may change depending on appetite and nausea.  Having several small meals may be a better way to get in our calories.  Adding a supplement of vitamin B6 or ginger may help with nausea.  It is important to note that we should not be losing weight during the 1st trimester, even if we don’t gain much. 

During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, we will need to increase our calorie intake.  Generally, we will want to add about 350 calories per day in the 2nd and 450 calories per day in the 3rd trimester.  The number of calories that we add will also depend on our weight gain goals during our pregnancy.  Most women will gain 15-25 pounds during pregnancy.   

Protein is important to increase during pregnancy.  It is recommended that women get a minimum of 71 grams of protein per day while pregnant—an increase of 25 grams/day.  Protein is a key building block of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and collagen for our developing baby. 

Fat is an important place to get calories and vitamins.  It is recommended that women get 20% more fat, especially essential fatty acids, during pregnancy than before.    A good amount would be about 50 grams/day.  Healthy fatty foods include eggs, yogurt, nuts, and grass-fed animal products.   

Carbohydrates play an important role in our diets and low-carb diets are not recommended during pregnancy.  However, a lower-carb diet may be needed for women at risk for gestational diabetes.  If you have risk factors for gestational diabetes such as being very overweight, having PCOS, having a history of large babies (over 9 pounds), or having high blood pressure or cholesterol, you may want to consider a lower-carb option.  The best bet is to work with a dietician who specializes in pregnancy to help you with your diet during pregnancy and postpartum periods.   

As you plan your meals during pregnancy, it is important to look at getting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables as well.  Fruits and veggies have high levels of fiber that can help keep you regular, especially if you are tending towards being constipated.  On top of that, they provided a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that our bodies and developing babies need.   

So, while you don’t need to eat an increase of calories for two, it is important to pay attention to what types of food you are eating and get a wide variety of foods to help support a changing body and growing baby.   

Sarah is the proud co-owner of Foundational Concepts, Specialty Physical Therapy which opened in March 2013. Sarah lectures at the University of Missouri Department of PT, University of Kansas Departments of PT and Nurse Midwifery, and at Rockhurst University Department of PT. She is board certified in Women’s Health PT and holds certifications in medical therapeutic yoga, lymphedema therapy and dry needling.

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