Eating well is essential for a healthy pregnancy for you and your child. However, defining what is healthy and knowing what nutrients and how much of each to work into your diet can be difficult. Here are expert tips from Sue Mah, a registered dietitian, on how to add four important nutrients into your diet:
• Folate is a B-vitamin needed to build red blood cells, and supports the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Choose foods rich in folate like edamame beans, spinach, avocado, enriched pasta, peanuts, sunflower seeds and beans. Mah also recommends introducing a cup of orange juice to your daily diet for a delicious source of folate, plus potassium and vitamin C, with no added sugar.
• Calcium is essential for your baby’s strong bones and teeth. Enjoy a variety of calcium-rich foods like milk, fortified soy beverage, yogurt, cheese, almonds, collards, tofu (with calcium sulphate), and canned salmon with bones.
• Iron is needed in higher amounts during your pregnancy to make red blood cells that will carry oxygen to you and your growing baby. Some of the best choices for iron are lean meat, poultry, fish, dried peas, beans, dark green veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs and iron-enriched breads, pasta or breakfast cereals.
• Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, char and sardines and are important for your baby’s eye and brain development. Walnuts, ground flax and chia seeds, canola oil, and eggs are also great sources of omega-3 fats.
Foods that should be avoided or limited during pregnancy include:
• Fish that are high in mercury like swordfish, marlin, escolar, orange roughy and white/albacore tuna (canned light or skipjack tuna are okay). If you enjoy these fish, limit yourself to two servings a month.
• Caffeine should be limited to 300 mg of caffeine per day or about two small cups of coffee.
• Herbs and herbal teas can be risky, so always check with your health care professional or dietitian.
Sue recommends taking a prenatal multivitamin that contains 0.4 mg folic acid, 16-20 mg iron and vitamin B12. Every pregnancy is different, so talk to your health care provider about the prenatal vitamin that’s best for you.