Figuring out your diet plan during pregnancy can be tricky -- after all, you have different nutrition needs than at any other time in your life. However, you shouldn't attempt to diet or lose weight during pregnancy, or you could risk harm to the fetus. Take a look at what nutrients you need more of while your baby grows inside you -- along with how many calories you need for proper weight gain -- and then combine them to form healthy, satiating meals and snacks that will keep your weight at a healthy level. If you have questions about your diet while you're expecting, talk with your obstetrician and a registered dietitian.
Keeping Calories in Check
During pregnancy, you should gain anywhere from 11 to 40 pounds, depending on your body mass index prior to conception. If you are normal weight, you should gain anywhere from 25 to 35 pounds. "Eating for two" typically only means an extra few hundred calories a day later in pregnancy -- 340 additional calories in the second trimester and an extra 450 calories in the third trimester, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
You don't need any additional calories during the first trimester. It's important not to cut back on too many calories, though; the March of Dimes warns that failing to gain enough weight during pregnancy could result in having a baby with low birth weight. Gaining too much, however, increases risk of premature delivery and health problems for the mother, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
Your nutrient needs change during pregnancy as your body supports your growing baby. According to the American Pregnancy Association, you need 75 to 100 grams of protein per day to boost the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain, as well as increase your blood supply. Your body also needs extra calcium to regulate fluids and build the baby's bones and tooth buds; get around 1,000 milligrams a day.
Your body's blood volume naturally increases during pregnancy, so to avoid anemia, you need 27 milligrams of iron each day. Folic acid/folate is vital to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, so you'll need 600 to 800 micrograms daily. Additionally, aim to get 85 milligrams a day of vitamin C to support tooth and bone development, as well as help with wound healing.
You might suffer morning sickness during breakfast time in the first trimester, so aim for a quick, simple meal that's less likely to make you feel nauseated. This could be a breakfast smoothie made with plain Greek yogurt, milk and fruit such as bananas, strawberries or blueberries, which will supply calcium, fiber and vitamin C. A bowl of oatmeal with fruit and milk might also be bland enough to curb nausea, yet still provide nutrients.
For lunch and dinner, get a combination of protein, iron and folate by eating poultry or lean beef with dark green leafy veggies and legumes. Add a serving of complex carbs, such as whole-wheat pasta, to keep you satisfied. Steer clear of foods such as deli meats, raw fish and unpasteurized cheese products to prevent food-borne illness.
Snacking can provide a steady flow of energy and nutrients to both mother and baby, as well as combat the effects of morning sickness and heartburn. However, ensure you're not blowing your caloric budget on unhealthy snacks. Each snack should be a balanced combination of protein, carbs and a little fat, such as whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese, an apple and natural peanut butter or half a whole-grain bagel with a smear of cream cheese.
If you're craving something unhealthy, substitute a better option; for example, if you're wanting potato chips, snack on low-fat popcorn. If the ice cream in the freezer is calling your name, instead enjoy a smoothie made with fruit and low-fat yogurt.