Eating by Trimester
Expecting a child gives new meaning to healthy living. The coming months will be filled with rapid growth and change. Here’s how to handle each trimester.
Chances are, you’ll learn the good news from a home pregnancy test, perhaps even days after conception. When it comes to nutrition, the earlier you know you’re pregnant, the better. It may be a few weeks before you see your healthcare provider, so here’s what to do in the meantime.
• Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking causes premature delivery and low-birth-weight babies. Tobacco smoke robs your body of nutrients vital to a baby’s development.
• Stop drinking alcohol and stop taking any drug or supplement, including herbs and vitamins, not approved during pregnancy. Both can cause irreversible fetal harm.
• If you’re not doing so already, start taking a daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid and about 100% of the daily value for other included nutrients. Folic acid, and its naturally occurring counterpart folate, is a B vitamin that helps prevent defects of the neural tube, which develops into the spinal cord and brain during the first 28-30 days of pregnancy. Folic acid is found in enriched grains such as cereal, bread, rice, and pasta, while folate is abundant in legumes, spinach, strawberries, and peas.
• Go easy on the caffeine. Morning sickness may have put you off coffee or tea, and that’s a good thing. Limit caffeine to no more than 300 milligrams a day, the amount found in two small cups of brewed coffee.
• Drink more fluid. Weight gain during the first trimester is predominantly due to the fluid that’s part of blood, the placenta, and amniotic fluid. Water is the best choice for satisfying most of your fluid quota for the day. Juice contains nearly as many calories as soda, although it’s much healthier. However, it can contribute to excess calories.
• Don’t worry about your weight. You may feel a surge in appetite, but your baby is too small at this point to require extra calories. Many women put on between two and four pounds, most of it fluid.
Women with morning sickness or nausea may lose weight during these first 13 weeks. Weight loss now typically does not harm the baby, but it should not become the rule throughout the pregnancy. If you are vomiting more than twice a day, you should seek medical help to decrease your risk of dehydration. Don’t let yourself get too hungry, and avoid unappealing odors to reduce nausea. Small frequent meals throughout the day may help quell nausea, fatigue, and heartburn.
For most women, morning sickness is on the wane, and first trimester fatigue is a thing of the past. Appetite returns, and concerns about weight kick in. From now on, you should gain between three-quarters and one pound per week. Gaining too little makes for a low birth weight baby (5.5 pounds and under) that can face health problems. Gaining too much — more than 35 pounds — may make delivery more difficult. Plus, it may be harder to shed the weight after giving birth. That said, weight gain during pregnancy is related to your preconception weight. Talk to your healthcare professional about how much weight gain is right for you. Here are some general eating guidelines.
Add 300 calories a day to your normal calorie intake, which amounts to about 2,500 calories a day for most women and upwards of 2,800 a day for active women. What does 300 calories amount to? The following examples provide an idea:
• 2 cups 1% low fat milk and 2 ounces lean meat, poultry, or seafood
• 2 slices whole wheat bread, 2 ounces chicken breast and 1 teaspoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
• 1 cup vanilla low fat yogurt mixed with 1/2 cup chopped fresh fruit and topped with 1 ounce crunchy cereal
Your overall diet should be look something like this:
• 9 servings of bread, cereals, rice and pasta
• 4-7 servings of fruits and vegetables, combined
• 3 servings of dairy foods
• 6-7 ounces meat, chicken or seafood*, or the equivalent (For example, one egg; 1/2 cup of tofu, 2 tablespoons almond or peanut butter; or 1/2 cup cooked legumes may be substituted for an ounce of meat.)
Calcium needs do not increase during pregnancy. Even so, it may be difficult for you to get the recommended 3 servings a day of dairy foods, especially if you were not a milk drinker before pregnancy. Include a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast or snack, make a fruit smoothie from milk or yogurt and fruit, mash potatoes with lots of low fat milk, and enjoy pudding and frozen yogurt for treats.
By now, you probably have been taking a prescription prenatal pill every day. If so, discontinue your multivitamin or you risk nutrient overload.
Constipation can be a by-product of prenatal vitamins because of the high iron content. Pregnancy increases iron needs so much that it’s difficult to satisfy them without a supplement. Solution: fiber and fluid. Fiber wards off the constipation and hemorrhoids that expectant moms often experience. Fiber and fluid are essential partners, so sip at least 64 ounces daily. Aim for about 25 grams of fiber a day from whole grain cereals, breads, grains, and fruits and vegetables.
You’re in the home stretch! This trimester is marked by baby’s brain development and weight gain. From 26 weeks on, your baby packs on about an ounce a day, and so will you, so don’t be surprised. Here’s how to make it through to the big day.
• Continue eating a healthy diet and avoiding harmful substances, such as alcohol and tobacco.
• Stay active. Regular physical activity reduces stress and blood pressure, and keeps constipation at bay.
• Handle your heartburn. In the first trimester, hormones were to blame for heartburn. Now, it’s lack of space. As the baby grows, he puts more pressure on your internal organs, crowding the stomach and causing stomach acid to back up into your esophagus. Try to avoid large meals, and don’t lie down immediately after eating.
• Focus on fat. Some fats are better than others, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA), two polyunsaturated fats that accumulate in baby’s brain during the last trimester, and beyond. DHA is found primarily in seafood. The body makes AA from linoleic acid, which is found in nuts, seeds, and oils including corn oil and sunflower oil. Pregnant and nursing women can increase their blood levels of these beneficial fats by eating foods packed with DHA and AA*.
*The Food and Drug Administration recommends pregnant and nursing women and those capable of becoming pregnant avoid eating shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel because these fish contain high levels of mercury, which is harmful to a baby’s developing nervous system.
The information contained in or made available through This Site cannot replace or substitute for the services of trained professionals in the medical field. We do not recommend any treatment, drug, food or supplement. You should regularly consult a doctor in all matters relating to physical or mental health, particularly concerning any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.