Nutrition for Two: Be Sure to Get Your Daily Dairy Dose
As a registered dietitian and a first-time mom-to-be, I definitely understand the importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy, and I can honestly tell you that what I’ve consumed during the last nine months has never felt so important. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve indulged on a sweet treat when the craving struck, in fact I think the local ice cream shop might have put out a search warrant if they didn’t see me at least twice a week, but what I have focused a great deal of my energy on is making sure to include nutrient rich foods as often as possible.
So many women focus the majority of their attention on the foods and drinks to avoid – like alcohol, lunch meats, certain kinds of fish, etc. which, don’t get me wrong, is extremely important – but we should also take time think about what foods we should include in our diet, especially during this critical time. It’s important to make sure to have nutrient rich snacks on hand throughout the day, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy. When you know that what you’re eating will have an impact on your future baby, it makes it a whole lot easier to eat (choke down) the green beans and spinach salad that may or may not taunt you the entire first trimester!
One of the most important things to keep in mind for expectant mothers is the need to consume critical nutrients to encourage good health for both mom and baby. And, many of those nutrients can be found in dairy products. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the American Pregnancy Association recommend that pregnant women consume at least 3 to 4 servings of pasteurized dairy products every day, which provide calcium, protein, and vitamin D, to name just a few.
Let’s take a look at why these nutrients are so important:
Calcium: During pregnancy, calcium is needed for the healthy development of a baby’s teeth, bones, heart, nerves and muscles. When a pregnant woman does not consume enough calcium, it is taken from her bones for the baby. It is important to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day before, during and after pregnancy. That means at least three daily servings of calcium-rich foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese or calcium-fortified cereals and juices.
Protein: On average, it is recommend that pregnant women get 75 to 100 grams of protein per day. Foods rich in protein positively affects the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps the mom’s breast and uterine tissue to grow during pregnancy, and it plays a helping part in increasing her blood supply.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency is thought to be common among pregnant women, particularly during the winter months, and has been found to be associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and other tissue-specific conditions, therefore it is recommended to get 400 IU daily. Some recent studies have shown that higher levels of vitamin D intake may reduce the risk of conditions listed above.
An added bonus: Drinking milk provides fluids. When pregnant, it’s especially important to keep yourself hydrated, and milk and yogurt can help do the trick!
Other key nutrients for pregnant women include:
Folic acid: Critical during pregnancy, folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects affecting the spinal cord. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume 400 micrograms per day, and women who are pregnant should increase their intake to 600 micrograms per day.
Iron: Iron is needed to make sure pregnant women are not at risk for anemia. Pregnant women need at least 27 milligrams of iron each day. High-iron foods include leafy greens, beans, fortified cereals, lean meat, chicken and fish.
A couple of my go-to snacks include:
- Cheese and crackers
- Fruit smoothies
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Fruit and yogurt parfaits
- Cereal and milk
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Oatmeal and raisins
** It is important to note that the Dietary Guidelines recommend avoiding foods made from unpasteurized milk, including some soft cheeses such as feta, queso blanco, queso fresco, Brie, Camembert and blue-veined cheese.
Nutrition during pregnancy is extremely important because it doesn’t just affect one person it impacts two. The information shared in this blog simply scratched the surface; so if you’re looking for more information, please visit the following websites: