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Pregnancy Nutrition: An Einstein Perspective

By on 03/23/2020

If you’re pregnant, you have special nutrition needs to make sure your baby receives all of the important nutrients for healthy development. In this podcast, Einstein Healthcare Network dietician Megan Carrier, MS, RD, LDN, CCIT, talks with Perspectives’ Sharon Eisenhour about the recommended foods to eat and precautions to follow during pregnancy.

Einstein Healthcare Network produces numerous podcasts featuring our doctors and experts discussing their fields of expertise and sharing tips on how to live a healthy life.

Eisenhour: Welcome to Einstein Perspectives. I’m Sharon Eisenhour, and I’m speaking with Megan Carrier, outpatient dietician for OBGYN at Einstein Healthcare Network. Today we’re talking about pregnancy nutrition.

Eisenhour: Megan, what type of diet should you follow when you’re pregnant?

Carrier: You want to take the best care possible of your body when you’re trying to get pregnant and while you’re pregnant. For those who wish to breastfeed, I also encourage you to eat a healthy diet while breastfeeding. The food you eat during pregnancy can influence the development of baby, what foods they are likely to eat, and whether or not they develop health issues like diabetes and obesity in the future.

I encourage vegetables twice a day. Peas, corn, and potatoes don’t count. Then you also want to include fruit, healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, beans, and whole wheat bread. All of these include important vitamins and minerals for the development of baby and fiber that can help with constipation. You also want to include lean meats like eggs, fish, chicken and turkey, and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and nut butters, and unsweetened beverages. Water is really important.

Eisenhour: Are there any specific nutrition recommendations for pregnancy?

Carrier: Yes, we want to include folic acid, DHA, and choline. These are very important.

Eisenhour: And how much of each type of food or nutrient do you need when you’re pregnant?

Carrier: For folic acid, you want to include 600 micrograms a day for pregnancy and 500 micrograms a day for lactating or breastfeeding. These foods include green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits like oranges, beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, any kind of fresh fruit, eggs and peanuts.

In terms of DHA, we’re looking at 300 milligrams per day when pregnant, and you can find this in foods like salmon, tuna, crab, shrimp, chicken and eggs.

The last, choline, we’re looking for 450 milligrams per day for pregnancy and 550 milligrams per day when breastfeeding or lactating. This is found in foods like beef, eggs, tuna, soybeans, chicken breast, mushrooms, beans, quinoa, yogurt, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. You want to try to eat one item from each category every day.

Eisenhour: Now if you follow a healthy diet, should you also pay attention to calories and how much weight you gain during pregnancy?

Carrier: Yes, you do want to pay attention to how much weight you gain. If you start your pregnancy with a healthy BMI, which is calculated between 18.5 and 24.9, you’re looking at 20 to 25 pounds of weight gain during pregnancy. If you’re overweight, which is a BMI between 25 and 29, it’s 15 to 20 pounds. For those entering pregnancy classified as obese, which is a BMI of 30 or higher, it’s 10 to 12 pounds. There’s actually research showing that you may not even need to gain this much weight if your baby is growing correctly. Growth of the baby is measured at routine OB visits, so it’s important that you go to your appointments. If the baby is measuring too big or too small, an ultrasound is done to gather more information.

Eisenhour: Well, what foods or drinks should you avoid or limit when you’re pregnant and why?

Carrier: You really want to avoid any sweetened beverages including diet drinks; stick with just unsweetened beverages. Sweetened beverages are full of sugar and they’re no good. Soda, juice, iced tea, lemonade, Gatorade and Kool-Aid are all just the equivalent of soda. Diet drinks make you drink or eat more calories and they can affect your blood sugars during pregnancy. I also suggest avoiding all fried foods. The breading and the oils aren’t good for baby or you. You want to avoid all alcohol and cigarettes and cigarette smoke. Even if someone else smokes in the house, this can interfere with the growth and the development of baby.

Eisenhour: Are there any other precautions to follow?

Carrier: Yes. You want to limit large fish to twice a week. This is food like bigeye tuna, swordfish, shark, tilefish, marlin. You want to make sure to cook all meat, eggs and fish all the way through. Limit caffeine to eight ounces per day. This includes coffee and tea. Microwave lunch meats for 26 seconds, and cook hotdogs all the way through, but I highly suggest not eating these during pregnancy. And then you want to make sure that you wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.

Eisenhour: What are the nutrition recommendations that apply if you’re diagnosed before or during pregnancy with diabetes or high blood pressure and/or obesity?

Carrier: You want to make sure to moderate your carbohydrates. These are foods like rice, pasta, bread, cereal, milk, corn, peas and potatoes. Moderate to the size of your fist from wrist up. Drink only unsweetened beverages. Avoid fried foods and fast foods because these foods have a lot of salt and they aren’t good for the blood sugars. I also highly encourage walking or moving around after meals for 10 to 15 minutes; just don’t sit down. It helps control blood sugars. Daily walks are also good for high blood pressure, sugars and/or obesity, and it’s also a good way to prevent these.

Eisenhour: Megan Carrier, I’d like to thank you for talking with us today about pregnancy nutrition. Once again, she’s the outpatient dietician for OBGYN at Einstein Healthcare Network. For Einstein Perspectives, I’m Sharon Eisenhour. Learn more about Einstein’s obstetrical and gynecological services at Einstein.edu/OBGYN.

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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.