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What to Eat When You're Pregnant

A trimester-by-trimester guide to what to eat - as opposed to what to avoid - while pregnant and nursing, to support the mother's health and the baby's development during each stage of pregnancy, with 50 recipes.


1. What does healthy eating mean when I am pregnant?
A lot like healthy eating when you’re not pregnant. Healthy eating during this time generally means trying to steer clear of foods and drinks that are high in sugar and /or fat and are highly processed, which often contain a lot of calories, and incorporating mostly fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, etc, into your diet. However, given the important developmental milestones that occur during pregnancy, healthy eating can also mean focusing on consuming foods that provide specific nutrients that may support certain aspects of growth – such as omega-3’s for healthy vision and brain development.

2. Does what I eat before I get pregnant matter?
What you eat before becoming pregnant can be important for two reasons. In general terms, if your diet is relatively unhealthy prior to pregnancy, this may result in increased weight. Increased body weight prepregnancy is associated with gaining more weight during pregnancy as well as other complications. The second reason relates directly to intakes of specific nutrients before pregnancy, for example, folate is recommended for all women of childbearing age to ensure proper stores if one becomes pregnant.

3. Should my diet change as my pregnancy progresses?
It may be helpful to focus on and incorporate some different foods into your diet as your pregnancy progresses because of the developmental changes that are known to take place during the different stages of pregnancy. This is why, for instance, the book encourages women to focus more on consuming folate-rich foods during the first trimester when the neural tube (the spine and brain) forms and closes.

4. I’ve heard pregnant women can ‘eat for two’is this true?
Not entirely – this mentality can get us into trouble because we often think of “eating for two” as eating for two comparably sized people instead of one adult and one teeny tiny developing baby! However, some additional calories are usually needed to support healthy growth; in the book, I discuss the specific amount of extra calories women are recommended to consume during each trimester according to the Institute of Medicine. 

5. Are food cravings normal?
Experiencing food cravings during pregnancy is normal and several theories have been proposed to explain why, which I discuss in the book. The challenge is to not let food cravings entirely rule your food decisions, especially if the foods you tend to crave are not healthy since this may have poor effects for you and/or the baby and may also lead to more weight gain than desired. Practical tips to avoid succumbing to excessive food craving traps are included in Chapter 7 of the book.

6. I can’t seem to stomach foods I used to love to eat - is this normal?
Yes – some pregnant women will experience strong aversions towards particular foods. This may limit the nutrients we receive if whole food groups are avoided. Fortunately, these nutrients can be derived from other foods. 

7. Are there foods I should completely avoid while pregnant?
There are a few foods that are not recommended for pregnant women, such as fish with high mercury contents, unpasteurized cheese, and processed meats that may carry Listeria. I have included a list of foods to avoid in the appendix of the book.

8. Why is there so much conflicting information on what to eat / what not to eat and why is this book different?
It makes sense that in the past, most people have focused on what foods may be harmful to eat during pregnancy since continuing to eat most everything else in our diet was acceptable. But simply focusing on what not to eat doesn’t seem like enough in today’s current food environment, filled with high calorie, convenient, processed options – it is more important now than ever before to highlight foods that we know offer natural nutrients in abundance.  

9. I’m a little overweight now; can your book help me keep my weight under control while I’m pregnant?
Yes! In fact, there is an entire chapter entitled “What You Can Do to Keep Your Weight in Check During Pregnancy,” which describes the current weight gain guidelines per trimester, a discussion of recent studies that suggest specific behavioral modifications that can help limit weight gain during this time, as well as a chart to track your weight gain throughout pregnancy.

10. What about after the baby is born? Can I go back to my normal diet?
The key is to try and maintain the healthy eating habits that you had practiced throughout your pregnancy, and fortunately, almost all of the diet suggestions contained in this book for pregnancy are also applicable after giving birth. While it may seem challenging given the new lifestyle that comes with having a new baby in the house, I have compiled a list of strategies to help maintain a nutritious diet during this somewhat hectic time.

11. I’m hoping to breastfeed, will my diet affect the milk?
What you eat while breastfeeding will affect the amount of some (though not all) nutrients in your milk, and therefore the amount of nutrients that your baby gets, since breast milk is the sole source of nourishment for your little one. Therefore, I have included a discussion of what to eat to ensure optimal breast milk composition in the appendix of the book.

12. Is the advice you provide in this book suitable for people who aren’t pregnant yet?
Absolutely! While the book is geared towards mommies-to-be, the information it contains is also applicable to individuals who aren’t expecting – including men! The nutrients offered by foods like raspberries, walnuts, and spinach are valuable to one’s health no matter one’s pregnancy status, and the weight management techniques discussed in light of recent research can help to inform anyone’s weight loss approach.