Dr. Alex’s Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy – Calories, Cravings, Supplements, & Exercise

Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a beautiful and exciting time in a woman’s life, with the anticipation of bringing a new life into the world! It’s also a time that presents changes and challenges – physically and emotionally. If you lack motivation to make healthy changes in your life, being pregnant, or potentially becoming pregnant, should motivate us to be the healthiest we can be! We all want a healthy baby, and we all need to be healthy in order to take care of our children!

I’m currently at the beginning of my third trimester at 29 weeks pregnant, and my husband and I couldn’t be more excited to meet our sweet baby girl! I have been feeling wonderful, healthy, and happy.

Calories

When people think of nutrition during pregnancy, a lot of the emphasis is on daily caloric intake. The current guidelines recommend that pregnant women consume no additional calories per day during the first trimester, only an additional 340 calories per day during the second trimester, and only an additional 450 calories per day during the third trimester.1 While these guidelines give some insight into how much food to eat, it’s more important to focus on what kinds of foods we’re eating. We need to make sure that those additional calories are coming from nutrient-dense foods. Some of the foods I’ve incorporated more of in my diet to slightly increase my calorie intake include avocados, MCT oil, raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, wild-caught salmon, cashew butter, coconut, ground flax seeds, olives, and extra virgin olive oil. Most of these foods are a great source of protein and healthy fats.

Cravings

It is normal for women to have food cravings during pregnancy. I craved vinegar for the first few months of pregnancy! I also noticed an increase in my appetite, and a desire for unhealthy foods that never used to tempt me much! I don’t recommend eating any fast food or junk food during pregnancy, because it could be difficult to stop eating those foods. I recommend finding healthy alternatives that will provide satisfaction and satiety. For example, if I was craving ice cream, I would make a fruit smoothie with a banana. I’m careful not to keep chips, crackers, or other ‘junky’ foods in the house, because I know my willpower is a bit lower than normal! To avoid excessive hunger and giving in to unhealthy cravings, I recommend eating a ‘mini-meal’ every 3-4 hours. Each mini meal should contain protein, healthy fats, and some carbohydrates. Also, be sure to stay hydrated with water throughout the day, as thirst can be confused with hunger.

Supplements

Most pregnant women take a prenatal multivitamin, which is great! These vitamins and minerals are essential for baby’s development and can make up for any vitamins and minerals possibly lacking in our diet. Be sure to take a daily prenatal multivitamin, containing at least 600mcg folate (not folic acid), 27mg iron, 2.6mcg vitamin B12, 1,000mg calcium, 220mcg iodine, 10mg zinc, and 65 mcg selenium.2 Ideally, supplementing with a prenatal multivitamin should begin at least three months prior to conception. I also recommend taking a molecularly distilled and third-party tested fish oil supplement during pregnancy, containing at least 500mg DHA. Fish oil taken during pregnancy has been shown to improve cognitive development in babies, decrease their risk of asthma and allergies, and more.3,4

Exercise

Each trimester of pregnancy presents its own challenges to staying physically active, and therefore pregnant women are typically less active than non-pregnant women.5 I encourage women to stay active during pregnancy because of the innumerable benefits. Regular physical activity during pregnancy reduces risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth, prevents excess weight gain, reduces risk for having a large-for-gestational age (LGA) newborn, results in having lighter and leaner children (as they become older), and more.6 If you were not currently active before pregnancy, start with gentle aerobic exercise, like brisk walking. I encourage pregnant women to exercise within the limits of what ‘feels good’ for their bodies. It’s also important to avoid any exercises that require heavy weights, create a ‘bearing down’ sensation in the body, or feel like an abdominal ‘crunch’ (this can increase the risk for diastasis recti – abdominal muscle separation).

Summary

Only slightly increase your calorie intake in your second and third trimesters, through consuming nutrient-dense foods.

Eat a ‘mini’ meal containing protein, healthy fats, and some carbohydrates every 3-4 hours.

Stay hydrated with water throughout the day.

Supplement with a prenatal multivitamin (containing folate, iron, and vitamin B12) three months prior to pregnancy, and throughout pregnancy.

Supplement with molecularly-distilled fish oil (containing 500mg DHA) daily during pregnancy.

Engage in comfortable, safe, and regular physical activity throughout pregnancy.

 

Would you like more guidance on having a healthy pregnancy, now or in the future?

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References

  1. (2019). Weight Gain During Pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed April 1, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm.
  2. Wilson, RL, Gummow, JA, McAninch, D, et. al. Vitamin and mineral supplementation in pregnancy: evidence to practice. Women’s and Children’s Therapeutics Review. (2018);48(2):186-192.
  3. Dunstan, JA, Simmer, K, Dixon, G, and Prescott, SL. Cognitive assessment of children at age 2 ½ years after maternal fish oil supplementation in pregnancy: a randomised controlled trial. Archives of Disease in Childhood – ADC Fetal & Neonatal Edition. (2007); 93:F4-F6.
  4. Dunstan, JA, Mori, TA, Barden, A, et. al. Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy modifies neonatal allergen-specific immune responses and clinical outcomes in infants at high risk of atopy: A randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. (2003);112(6):1178-1184.
  5. Gaston, A, and Cramp, A. Exercise during pregnancy: A review of patterns and determinants. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. (2011);14(4):299-305.
  6. Mudd, LM, Owe, KM, Mottola, MF, and Pivarnik, JM. Health Benefits of Physical Activity during Pregnancy: An International Perspective. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. (2012).
Disclaimer: This information does not constitute medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider about supplements, diet, and exercise during your pregnancy.
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