What to Eat for a Healthy Pregnancy During COVID
Congratulations! You’re pregnant! It’s super exciting and there is a lot to take in. You have even more questions than you did before you got pregnant, and updated research to review. What to eat is a big one. Before you were pregnant, you did your best to have a pretty healthy diet, maybe following your grandmother’s sage advice about eating lots of fresh foods from the garden and watching sweets.
But now that you’re eating for two, what’s the best way to meet your nutritional needs for a healthy pregnancy? How many calories do you need? What foods should you focus on? What foods should you avoid? And, especially now, can your diet lessen the impact of risks from COVID? Not to worry, take a deep breath; no really, take a deep breath, and continue reading.
Research shows that a healthy pregnancy starts with a healthy diet. There are complications that can be lessened or avoided if you eat well while you are pregnant. During COVID-19, it is even more important to protect your health during pregnancy, so that you stay at low risk. We have listed some guidelines here for eating well in pregnancy to support your health at any time, including during a pandemic. Keep in mind these are general suggestions. Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about their recommendations for your specific circumstances.
Watch Out for These Foods in Pregnancy!
First, a few things to note as soon as you are pregnant: Check with your OB about any foods that are not recommended in pregnancy. For example, before you take a bite of that raw apple, it’s best to rinse it well. In fact, it’s best to thoroughly rinse all of your fruits (even ones like melons and oranges where we don’t eat the peel), as well as all vegetables before consuming. Rinsing your fruits and vegetables will reduce the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, bacteria that are harmful to you and baby during pregnancy.
You’ll also want to avoid uncooked foods to prevent the risk of Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning and/or sepsis. Foods like undercooked eggs, meats, poultry, and fish, blue-veined and soft cheeses, unpasteurized milk and cheeses, fermented and raw meat sausages, and raw and smoked meat, fish or shellfish can all harbor harmful bacteria and should be avoided while pregnant1.1 Talk to your doctor or midwife for a complete list of foods to avoid during your pregnancy.
Starting with a Good Foundation of Health in Your First Trimester
So, what is great to eat when you’re pregnant? Let’s start at the beginning of your pregnancy. Your OB or midwife prescribed high-quality prenatal vitamins to meet all of your needs to support a healthy pregnancy. Along with this, it’s a great idea to generally add more fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains (such as brown rice, oats, farro, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth). Since protein is important throughout pregnancy, you’ll want to start thinking about getting adequate protein from sources like nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, fish, cheese, leafy greens, whole grains. Just start increasing protein during your first trimester as you can, eating a bit of protein at each meal.
In addition, according to the principles of Chinese medicine, to support your digestion we recommend that you eat warm and cooked foods for easier digestion. For example, you may want to steam your leafy greens and add ginger and/or garlic to warm up your digestion instead of eating a cold smoothie. For more tailored advice, consult your acupuncturist for nutritional advice to support your constitution.
If you are experiencing morning sickness, eating, in general, can be harder, so focus on staying hydrated, adding calories where you can throughout the day. You might try supplementing with protein powders and eating well-cooked foods, simple foods, or even rice porridge. Keep in contact with your provider to make sure you’re getting enough calories.
Otherwise, keep it simple. During this time, it can be very helpful to schedule acupuncture treatments to treat your morning sickness. If you need more support with staying hydrated or keeping calories in due to nausea and frequent vomiting, consult your OB or midwife ASAP for more support.
Keeping Good Momentum Going in Your Second Trimester
Suddenly, you may find smoother sailing in your second trimester. Thank goodness your morning sickness has resolved! Your energy levels have hopefully increased now, and you have more of an appetite. At this point, you will feel best if you eat about 50 grams of protein each day in the early second trimester, aiming for 70g by the end of this trimester. This will keep your energy and your iron levels up. You’ll also want to focus on whole grains and lots of fresh vegetables and some fruit.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists2 it’s best to add about 300 calories to your daily pre-pregnancy diet for healthy weight gain2. Of course, you know this is not a carte blanche to eat endless amounts of white sugar, white flour, white bread, white pasta, and sweets. You’ll still need to avoid junk food. Consuming too much sugar or simple carbs can increase your risk of gestational diabetes, and, unfortunately, gestational diabetes may increase your risk of complications in the COVID-19 era.
So, keep your overall health in mind during this time. Again, take a deep breath, and simply be more conscious of this. Save big servings of cake for your baby shower, and keep sweets to once per week otherwise. For a sweet healthy dessert, eat a ripe Starkrimson pear, baked apple with cinnamon, or a berry compote with star anise. You can still enjoy your meals and have your dessert, but eat first for health and energy as you prepare yourself for the third trimester.
Staying Healthy in Late Pregnancy
In your third trimester, you are in the final stretch of your pregnancy! At this point, your blood volume has nearly doubled, and your baby is adding about an ounce of weight daily. You may start to feel over-stretched and a bit more uncomfortable, and may experience hip pain, low back pain, insomnia, constipation, or heartburn.
To help keep you and baby healthy and help prevent complications, it’s important to stay focused on good nutrition at this point with high protein at least 80 grams per day, a variety of vegetables, and adequate hydration. But, with heartburn and other discomforts on board, eating substantial meals can be challenging towards the end of pregnancy. This is a great time to schedule more visits with your acupuncturist to help relieve these symptoms, so you’re able to continue getting great nutrition until you deliver.
Preparing for a Healthy Labor!
Speaking of delivery, in the last few weeks of pregnancy, your body needs to store glycogen in your muscles to prepare for labor3.3 It’s a good time to focus on eating for endurance by eating plenty of whole grains, legumes, vegetables. As you prepare for your baby’s birth, you should know that your grandmother would be proud of you for following her advice! ☺ Knowing what you know now, your nutrition during pregnancy can be as healthy as possible. When it’s time for the marathon of labor, with great nutrition under your belt you can have all of the energy and support you need for a healthy labor and a beautiful birth.
At Portland Acupuncture Studio, we are dedicated to helping you get pregnant more easily, and to support your health during pregnancy. We are skilled at helping you and your baby stay healthy with the help of diet and lifestyle suggestions and, of course, acupuncture. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you and your baby stay healthy and thrive during these times.
- Betts, D. (2006). The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth. East Sussex: The Journal of Chinese Medicine, Ltd.
- West, Z. (2008). Acupuncture in pregnancy and childbirth. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.