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Healthy Pregnancy Diet Menu Plans

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Pregnancy diet plan definition and facts

  • A healthy diet during pregnancy ensures optimal health for both the mother and fetus.
  • Women need only 300 extra calories per day during pregnancy.
  • A healthy pregnancy diet should focus on unprocessed foods that come mostly from plant-sources. A healthy pregnancy diet also can include some animal products.
  • The diet during pregnancy should include extra calcium, iron, folate, zinc, iodine, and vitamin D.
  • During pregnancy, avoid these foods
  • During pregnancy, an ideal dinner plate should be
    • ½ veggies,
    • ¼ protein like beans,
    • ¼ whole grain carbs like quinoa, and
    • topped with about 2 tablespoons of healthy fats like olive oil.

Is there a pre-pregnancy diet plan?

Women who are planning in advance to become pregnant have a great opportunity to focus on a healthy diet and get into optimum health before conceiving. Many women are encouraged to consider the 3 months before conception as a "pre-mester" or a trimester of pregnancy before conception. Not only does following healthy pregnancy diet plan guideline help a woman get into optimal health, it may help her conceive more easily. The father-to-be also is encouraged to follow a pre-pregnancy diet because it may help the mother-to-be stick to a healthy pregnancy eating plan.

What is a healthy pregnancy diet plan?

Myths of pregnancy such as 'you need to eat twice as much because you're eating for two' or that indulging your cravings will give your baby birthmarks are outdated and inaccurate. From a scientific perspective, there are increased nutrient demands during pregnancy, but the wisdom of the body also tells us pregnancy is a time to focus on nourishment. It is a time for the mother-to-be to focus on being as healthy as she can because that care will translate to her baby in utero. Also, establishing healthy habits now will set a positive example that will benefit the child over his or her lifetime.

  • The increased caloric needs during pregnancy are minimal; about 300 extra calories are needed each day. This is equivalent to three-quarters of a blueberry muffin or 2 apples or 2 ounces of chocolate milk.
  • There also are a number of micronutrients or vitamins that are needed in increased amounts. The increased requirements are not solely due to the growth of the fetus. The changes in the mother's metabolism also contribute to the increased nutritional needs. The goal of healthy eating during pregnancy is to maximize micronutrient density. In other worlds, make sure you are getting maximum nutrition out of every bite, and that you avoid "empty" calories.
  • It's also important to know what foods, drinks, medications, and other toxins to avoid, for example, foods that have a higher risk of food-borne illness and foods that are toxic to a developing fetus such as alcohol, mercury-containing fish, and trans fats1. 
  • For many women, taking a prenatal multivitamin can be "insurance" against days when they aren't able to eat much (for example, to make up for lack of nutrition due to morning sickness, or not sticking to a healthy diet one day); however, it is important to remember that supplements supplement the diet; they aren't replacements for healthy eating.

What foods are part of a pregnancy diet menu plan?

A well-balanced, micronutrient dense diet is the key to a healthy pregnancy. Ideally, women should start eating this way before conception, but making healthier choices at any time will always help.

A well-balanced diet should contain:

  • carbohydrates from whole grain sources and fruits and vegetables;
  • protein from beans, nuts, seeds and hormone-free animal products like meat and dairy; and
  • healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, and the fats that occur in nuts, seeds, and fish.

Pregnant women need more iron, folic acid, calcium, zinc, iodine, and vitamin D, and higher amounts of most other nutrients, than nonpregnant women. The US Recommended Daily Allowance2 sets the level of nutrient intake that is estimated to meet the nutritional needs of 97.5% of pregnant women. Malnutrition increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby or going into preterm labor. Pregnant women need the following daily:

  • 600mcg of folic acid
  • 27 mg of iron
  • 1000mg of calcium
  • 11mg of zinc
  • 220 mcg of iodine
  • 600 IU vitamin D

In general, women will get high levels of these nutrients by choosing a diverse, colorful diet that focuses primarily (but not entirely) on plant-based foods.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2016


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