Eating Healthy While You're Pregnant

You probably already know how important  it is to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy. Eating well is essential for both you and your baby! We suggest an approach that will help you make healthy food choices during pregnancy and enable you to monitor what you eat easily and efficiently. Certain ethnic groups that have a high risk of diabetes, including Latinas, are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. But by following the guidelines below and getting regular exercise (check with your doctor first), you can keep your weight gain in check and help prevent this condition.

In the Latino culture, there's a widespread belief that when you're pregnant, you have to eat for two. But healthy eating during pregnancy doesn't mean a ton of calories. Instead, aim to eat reasonable portions from all the food groups. You’ll need around 300 additional calories a day, but it will vary based on how far along you are in your pregnancy. Your body needs extra calories depending on how fast your baby is growing—and this changes as time goes by. Your activity level also affects how many calories you'll need. Your total calorie intake should depend on how much you weigh, how old you are, your weight gain goal, and how active you are. Your calories should come from a variety of foods from the following food groups.

Food Groups
Foods are divided into three broad categories, according to how the body uses them: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Many foods belong to more than one of these food groups. For example, an avocado supplies carbohydrates, but most of its calories come from fat.

Carbohydrates (Starch)
Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose to get the energy it needs to move and perform daily activities. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes (beans) all belong to this group. Milk also contains carbohydrates. There are two kinds of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates enter your bloodstream relatively quickly, so your body doesn't need to work as hard to break them down. White flour and sugar and all the food made from them belong in the category of simple carbohydrates. Pregnant women are particularly sensitive to eating simple carbs in the morning, so you may want to put off eating these foods until late morning or afternoon.

Complex carbohydrates are also converted into glucose, but because they aren't refined, it takes longer for your body to break them down, so your blood sugar level doesn't rise as fast. Vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are all considered complex carbohydrates.

Protein is necessary for creating new tissue and repairing existing tissue. It's important to eat plenty of protein during pregnancy, to promote the healthy growth of your baby. Protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and dairy products.

Your baby needs fat for development, and you need it to stay healthy. But some fats are considered better for you than others. For example, vegetable fat (such as olive oil) and the fat in fish (like salmon) are better for your health than the saturated fat found in other animal products and the trans fat found in some baked goods and fried foods. It's a good idea to eat fat in moderation, because it's high in calories and could lead to unnecessary weight gain.

What about sweets?
Sweets are refined carbohydrates that are packed with calories and few, if any, vitamins or minerals. They may taste delicious, but it's important to eat them sparingly and with a meal because they can quickly raise blood sugar levels. If you crave something sweet, try to find a healthier option. For example, a handful of frozen grapes can leave you feeling as satisfied as ice cream, with significantly fewer calories.

Adapted from Esperando a Mi Bebé: Una Guía del Embarazo Para la Mujer Latina by Lourdes Alcañiz

©  BabyCenter 2008

Related links:

1) Read how much is a serving size of many typical Hispanic foods

2) Follow your pregnancy and your baby's development week by week with our free weekly newsletters. Sign up today! 

3) Read why gestational diabetes is one of the most common complications of pregnancy, and what you should do if you are diagnosed.

4) Find out why you need to have a glucose screening during pregnancy and what the results mean

5) Follow these simple guidelines to increase your chances of having a problem-free pregnancy and a healthy baby