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Pregnancy and Nutrition: How Important is It Really?

prenatal vitamins only go so far

Pregnancy is a nine-month whirlwind. There’s so much that changes and happens during that period of time that it can be hard to keep up with everything you need to know to make sure you and baby are safe and healthy.

One of those areas is nutrition—and how much do you really know about the importance of nutrition during pregnancy? (Other than you can’t drink alcohol or eat sushi?)

Dallas nutritionist Kimberly Young says your dietary and exercise habits during pregnancy “set the tone for post-natal recovery.” In other words, it’s highly important.

First, Young reminds moms-to-be that your prenatal vitamin will only get you so far. “A prenatal vitamin is only part of the puzzle for a healthy pregnancy.”  So other than smoking and alcohol, you should also avoid highly processed food and fast food.

Second, when your nutritionist or doctor tells you to avoid certain foods, it’s wise to heed their advice. “Because of risk of toxicity and contamination,” Young explains, “pregnant women [should] avoid raw or undercooked fish, seafood, meat and eggs. [They] should also avoid eating fish known to be high in mercury and unpasteurized dairy products.”

Young recommends pregnant mamas focus on having a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. This includes lean proteins, unrefined carbs and high-quality Omega-3 fats (Young says those are the most important).

“I like to suggest eating the rainbow—meaning a diverse intake of richly colored fruits and vegetables,” she says. “More color equals more nutrients. Refined sugars, caffeine and excess sodium should be limited. Sprouts and unwashed vegetables should also be avoided.”

Finally, Young reminds moms-to-be that they need roughly 100 extra calories per day during the first trimester, and roughly 300 extra calories in the next two.

But keep an eye on that. “Gaining too much weight can create problems for mom and baby,” Young notes. “Regular exercise is encouraged, but just moving your body during pregnancy is beneficial. Simple stretching or yoga can also help minimize stress levels and improve circulation.”

Image courtesy of iStock.