You’re pregnant. Congratulations…and don’t panic! If healthy eating hasn’t been a habit, don’t worry. Now is the perfect time to make a change you (and your family) will benefit from for decades.
And because the first trimester is one of the most important periods of your baby’s development, now really means now.
But it doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. Here are some simple diet changes that will help make pregnancy a happy and healthy time for both of you!
Focus on folic acid
Folic acid is a powerhouse nutrient in pregnancy that has been proven to dramatically reduce the risk of serious birth defects and helps with the normal development of all the cells in the body.
Women who are at greater risk for birth defects, for instance those taking anti-seizure medications, will need a prescription for a prenatal with a higher amount of folic acid, says Carl P. Weiner, MD, professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City and coauthor of The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy and Breast-feeding.
Manage morning sickness
Although nausea during pregnancy feels awful, it won’t hurt your baby if you can manage to keep some food and water down. If morning sickness makes it tough to keep your prenatal down, Dr. Weiner recommends taking it at night.
And if your nausea is so severe that you cannot keep your prenatal (or much food) down, Dr. Weiner advises talking with your doctor about anti-nausea medication. You should also tell your doctor about any other vitamin supplements you are taking to avoid taking more than the recommended amount of any one nutrient in pregnancy.
Fortify with folate
The same folic acid that prenatal vitamins are filled with also comes in foods rich in folate. The B vitamin occurs naturally in many foods including lentils, pinto and black beans, edamame, spinach, asparagus, citrus fruits and juices.
Other foods are fortified with folate to increase the levels women eat and reduce their chance of having a baby with a birth defect. Enriched choices include cereals (Largeman-Roth likes Total, which comes with 400 micrograms per serving), bread, pasta, and flour (look for the word “enriched” or “fortified” on the label).