You care about good pregnancy nutrition. Congratulations for your efforts to create a healthier pregnancy! Nutrition during pregnancy supports the growth of your baby, a vigorous blood supply, the elasticity of your skin and tissues (which is a big help during all of the stretching involved with growing a large belly and opening for birth), and your stamina for labor. I hope you are rewarded with meals you love, more energy, and fewer discomforts as you carry your child and bring them into the world. Your healing and transitions after birth will also benefit from the strong nutritional foundation you are laying now with good pregnancy nutrition.
Perhaps even more importantly, you are leading the way for your family as well. There is no better time to lay new patterns then when everything is up for re-negotiation anyhow. The nutrition skills you are developing are a gift you can pass to your loved ones. I wish you a wonderful season after birth when others care for you, and urge you to return to your new ways of planning for health as your family settles into a new routine. Make planning for nutrition a regular part of your life, like doing the laundry or buying clothes that fit. The rewards will last a lifetime.
Understanding the work of food in pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of inordinate physiological accomplishment as the body directs the growth of a baby, placenta, and the mother’s pregnant body and maintains intrauterine life. All of this activity is made possible by the energy and matter present in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the energy from the sun. Eating from all five food groups is important during pregnancy. Proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates (whole grains) are especially important during this time. A brief summary of their job in pregnancy will clearly show why a good pregnancy nutrition and a varied diet benefit you and your baby.
What protein does in pregnancy
Proteins are the physical building matter used to create body tissue. In this regard, it’s obvious why we need protein in pregnancy. With so much extra tissue being built during pregnancy, such as the baby, placenta, uterine growth, and breast growth, it is easy to understand the body’s need for protein. Animal products, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds are good sources of protein. You should have at least 6 oz daily of protein during pregnancy.
What fat does in pregnancy
Fat molecules are an essential part of the physical structure of hormones, which regulate the activity of our cells. Hormones conduct the development of your baby, the regulating of your systems, and the process of labor. Fats are a major component of brain tissue – the largest area of fetal growth. They are also key to the function of the immune system. The body can more easily use fats from unsaturated sources, which are fats from plants. Olive oil, peanut oil, flax seed oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds are excellent places to find very healthy fats. Fish oils are also very good for you. Saturated fats, such as animal fats, should be eaten in moderation. Synthetic fats, called trans fats or hydrogenated fats, are very difficult for the body to use and have negative affects. Their purpose is to increase shelf life. They can be avoided by eliminating processed food from your diet and watching for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils in ingredient lists.
What vitamins and minerals do in pregnancy
Vitamins and minerals attach to other molecules and determine what function these molecules play in the body. They are the key to directing the proper growth of your baby and your body.
What carbohydrates do in pregnancy
Carbohydrates provide the energy the body must use to do all of its work. Complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole grains and starches, digest slowly, which gives the body fuel in consistent and beneficial ways. Refined sugar and white flour digest very quickly and make it difficult to maintain consistent energy levels in your body. This is true anytime but is amplified by the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Effects of a diet high in refined carbohydrates are sluggish low-energy feelings, overeating, the potential for your baby to grow too large, or for placental growth inhibition.
Worrying about every detail of pregnancy nutrition VS enjoying your food: finding your balance
It is wonderful to desire to give the best to your baby. However, we need to remember that food serves many purposes in our life, and must nourish our emotional and social needs as it nourishes our bodies. We are resilient, and so are our babies. It is important that our approach to food and good pregnancy nutrition is comfortable. Eating during pregnancy should be enjoyable!
Caring for ourselves is one of the deepest ways that we can care for our children. Our children experience our emotions, and rely on our ability to nurture them. Good pregnancy nutrition enhances our sleep, gives us more patience for the people around us, and increases our energy level. All of these beneficial qualities of good eating can be reversed if anxiety or fear guide our meal planning.
How we eat our food – with whom, how quickly, whether we eat with gratitude – all affect the value that our food brings to our life. Knowledge about where our food came from, what parts of our being it benefits, and how it is used by our body can provide organizational energy to our body that actually helps us to make more efficient use of our food.
To learn more about pregnancy nutrition, you can read more articles in our pregnancy nutrition section.