Eating healthy while pregnant may seem like a no-brainer. However, there are many women who think that being pregnant is a license to eat anything they want. During my first pregnancy I joked that my husband was the food police, but I quickly believed his approach was valid when my daughter was born at 36 weeks—considered a late pre-term delivery—and was perfectly healthy. She required no NICU care, and even has no issues today. I believe my diet played a big role in her outcome. Wanting to see if this would work a second time, I followed the same nutrition regimen with my second daughter—now 12 weeks old—and she too was born healthy. Admittedly I was a little less strict this time around, yet I remained true to the core approach.
Based on our experience, here are some tips to consider for your pregnancy diet (author’s note: this does not replace the advice of your physician):
Eat Organic – Organic fruits and vegetables in the Bay Area are pretty accessible via certified Farmer’s Markets, and many grocery stories also carry fresh organic produce and organic products including non-GMO (genetically modified organism) items.
Know Where Your Food Comes From – For all meat and fish, my husband was careful to ask whether it was farmed or wild-pole-line caught, and where the meat, poultry or fish came from. Knowing the farm or information about how the animals are fed and treated, including use of antibiotics and hormones, helps you to understand what you are ingesting. If eating local is an option, try to learn about the farm practices as well.
Take Your Vitamins – Prenatal vitamins are a must and your physician will concur. Omega-3 fish oil capsules are a good second addition. Omega-3 fish oil helps with baby’s brain development while in utero as well as post-delivery. I also discovered the Belly Bar, which complemented my prenatal vitamins while providing a tasty snack. During my first pregnancy, these were easy to find at Whole Foods or any pregnancy-related store. The second pregnancy I had a harder time finding them. These nutrition bars come in flavors that make you think you are eating dessert!
Limit Coffee – I usually drink half-caffeinated coffee on a regular basis and didn’t give this up while pregnant. Once a day I had my treat so I didn’t feel like I was giving up everything. Some physicians say it’s fine, others say not to drink it. You want to enjoy being pregnant and not be resentful for 10 months, so talk to your doctor about whether forgoing caffeine is really necessary.
Eat, Eat, Eat – This may sound strange and you may worry about your weight, but if you choose plenty of healthy options, you will gain a healthy amount of weight for you and your baby. Don’t skip breakfast, do eat a snack before lunch, do eat lunch and eat another snack in the afternoon. Some good choices include fruit, almonds, graham crackers and protein like hard-boiled eggs and cheese sticks. Do eat dinner and if you have no aversions, spice up the menu.
Plan Ahead – Working outside the home can sometimes make it more challenging to eat healthy meals and snacks, so plan ahead each week. Pre-pack your snacks on Sunday so you can grab and go when you are heading to work. Think about your lunches for the week and instead of eating at the local café each day (which can also be pricey), buy premade organic salads or meals from your local grocery store.
I recognize that there are many factors that contribute to your baby’s health like genetics, the environment and your mental health, to name a few. That said, if you are vigilant with your diet while pregnant, your health and your baby’s health have been given the best start possible.
Kelsey Combellick is a career-loving parent who us is passionate about travel, food, wine and her family. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.