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Nutrition for pregnancy

Eating for two

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The minute I learned I was pregnant during each of my pregnancies, I cut out coffee (and wine) and otherwise spruced up my diet. My objective? Do everything I could in my power to get baby off to a good start.

Every mother-to-be wants the best for her baby, so let’s take a look at the latest nutritional recommendations.

Go-to nutrients

• Choline. This B-vitamin plays a key role in developing the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. It’s also involved with building the neural tube and central nervous system. Egg yolks are a particularly rich source. Find smaller amounts in beef, poultry, pork, and fish, as well as pistachio nuts.

• DHA omega-3. DHA is the building block of our brains, according to Tara Guidas, MS, RD, author of “Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition for Dummies”® and the mother of two preschool-aged sons.

“Aim for low mercury, high omega-3 fishes like salmon or sardines or take a supplement,” she advises.

• Folate. This B-vitamin is needed to prevent birth defects even before you’re pregnant. Take a prenatal, multivitamin, or folic acid supplement when you’re trying to get pregnant. Eat folate-rich foods like asparagus, spinach, orange juice, and legumes.

• Iron. Blood volume increases and so do iron needs. Meat is the best source, due to its highly absorbable form of this mineral.

• Protein. You need a significant amount of additional protein to support the growth of the baby. Aim for things like Greek yogurt, lean meats, and beans to meet these needs.

• Vitamin D. “Most women enter into pregnancy deficient in this vital nutrient, and you need more when you’re pregnant,” states Guidas. “Supplements are the best way to get it.”

Steer clear of these

Guidas points to three categories of foods that pose a safety risk: Anything unpasteurized, such as milk, cheese, or freshly squeezed juices; undercooked or raw meats, fish, seafood, or poultry; and raw or runny eggs.


Food cravings are normal, and for the most part, hormonal, according to Guidas.

“They don’t necessarily mean you are ‘deficient’ in a nutrient if you are craving it. For example, you may not be deficient in iron if you’re craving a steak.” She suggests you enjoy that food. “Go with the cravings and have small amounts of the foods you are craving, as long as it’s not a dangerous food or a non-food substance.” As every mom of two knows, every pregnancy is different, so don’t be surprised if one pregnancy finds you with extreme cravings and the next with not much at all.

If food allergies run in the family

Guidas says if food allergens run in the family, it’s best to limit them during pregnancy. However, with no history of allergies, “there is no need to limit milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, or any of the other common allergens.”

In two studies presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s annual meeting in March, researchers found that nursing mothers who attempt to ward off allergies by eliminating high-risk foods did not reduce the development of food allergies in their children.

Post delivery

After baby arrives and the new moms get into a rhythm, many are anxious to get their bodies going back to normal. Guidas suggests patience.

“Don’t expect too much too soon. Make sure you rest and recover,” she says. Guidas recommends drinking plenty of fluids, as well as eating to keep your strength up.

“Focus on nutrient-rich foods like lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and of course, lots of fruits and veggies. Eat small meals and frequent snacks so you give your body energy consistently throughout the day.”

Christine M. Palumbo is a registered dietitian in Naperville, Ill. who experienced stronger food aversions than she did cravings during each of her three pregnancies. Find her on Facebook at Christine Palumbo Nutrition or contact her at Chris@ChristinePalumbo.com.

Spinach, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: About 10 minutes

Makes one serving


Nonstick cooking spray

½ cup fresh spinach, stems removed

½ cup chopped fresh mushrooms

1 egg

1 slice Swiss cheese

1 whole wheat bagel thin


Spray a small skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat it over medium heat. Add the spinach and mushrooms to the skillet and cook until soft, about two to three minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, mix the egg in a small bowl with a fork. Remove the vegetables from the skillet and set them aside.

Add the egg to the hot skillet, and cook it until it’s no longer runny, about four minutes, flipping or stirring halfway through. Place the cheese on top of the egg and heat until melted, about one minute.

Toast the bagel thin in a toaster. Add the egg and cheese to the bottom half of the bagel thin. Top that with the sauteed vegetables and the other half of the bagel thin.

Vary it! Use asparagus in place of spinach if you want a different flavor, or if you want to take advantage of it while it’s in season.

NUTRITION FACTS: Calories 305; fat 14 g (saturated 7 g); cholesterol 239 mg; sodium 340 mg; carbohydrate 28 g (dietary fiber 6 g); protein 22 g; iron 2 mg; calcium 354 mg; folate 75 mcg.

Excerpted from “Pregnancy Cooking & Nutrition For Dummies”®, with permission from publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Updated 7:03 pm, October 28, 2016
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