An Easy Guide to Exercise and Nutrition During Pregnancy
We Cut Through the Myths and Give You a Pregnancy Health Plan You Can Actually Follow!
A nutritional diet and regular exercise are absolutely essential for a healthy pregnancy, both in the months leading up to trying to get pregnant and in the 40 weeks of your pregnancy term. But that doesn’t mean you have to cut out eating the foods you love! Read on for practical advice on how you can maintain a healthy pregnancy diet and exercise routine. It’ll give you all the vitamins, minerals and energy you need to grow a happy, healthy baby!
Getting Your Body Ready: Adjusting Your Pre-Pregnancy Diet
The best way to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy is to start eating a nutritious and varied diet, as well as getting regular exercise, right from the time you start your pregnancy planning long before you actually conceive your baby!
Try these before pregnancy tips:
- Two-thirds of your dinner plate should be covered with a range of delicious, fresh vegetables. The remaining third should be made up mainly of protein rich foods like lean meat and fish.
- Aim to eat 5 – 10 servings of fresh fruit or veggies every day. Not only does this load you up with all the right kinds of nutrients, it also helps to strengthen your immune system. So your body will be better prepared to take care of your baby.
- If you’re already moderately or very active keep up the good work! If you’ve got a fairly sedentary or only lightly active lifestyle, see if you can “push play” for a bit longer each day. Park the car a bit further from work, go for a walk with the hubby in the afternoon or get involved in some gym classes.
Each of these things seems so simple, but they will do you a world of good when you’re ready for getting pregnant. Find out more about an effective pre-pregnancy diet here.
Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
That old saying “eating for two” while pregnant contains only a grain of truth. Yes, you are technically feeding an extra human being. No, you don’t need to double your caloric intake! In fact, here’s how many calories you actually need to add at each of the pregnancy stages:
- The first trimester of pregnancy: No added calories needed.
- The second trimester of Pregnancy: Add around 300 calories.
- Third trimester pregnancy: Add around 500 calories.
To put that in perspective, 500 calories is 4 extra slices of bacon OR a six-inch ham sub on wholemeal OR a regular bagel with cream cheese. And that’s not until your final trimester – so you don’t actually have to add a whole lot of food to your prenatal diet.
Nutrition is Key
The key is not to eat more, it’s to eat nutritiously. Here are some great foods for a healthy pregnancy diet:
- Lots and lots of veggies (particularly those rich in iron). Broccoli, cooked spinach, leafy greens, green beans, peas, kale, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and more…
- Whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, granola, broad beans, oatmeal, quinoa, lentils, and nuts.
- Fresh fruits (especially those rich in vitamin C). Oranges, apples, cantaloupes, pineapple, papaya, apricots, peaches and kiwis.
- Calcium rich foods. Pasteurized milk, hard cheeses, yogurt.
- Lean meats and protein (or a vegetarian alternative). Turkey, beef, pork, chicken, venison, salmon or other fresh oily fish, eggs, tofu.
A Balanced Diet
Pretty much all fresh, unprocessed and good food is on this list! We’re not going to tell you exactly what to eat and when – pick and choose your favorite foods and try to keep your servings balanced using this handy guide. To get all the nutrients you need in your healthy diet plan for pregnancy, you should aim to balance your servings (about the size of your closed fist) like this:
- Veggies: At least 5 servings a day.
- Fresh fruit: At least 3 servings a day.
- Whole grains and legumes: 4 servings a day.
- Calcium rich foods: 4 servings a day.
- Protein: 3 servings a day.
- Healthy fats: Up to 3 servings a day (think of a tablespoon of mayonnaise or butter as one serve).
We’ll let you in on a little secret: this isn’t just the best diet for pregnant women. It’s what a healthy, balanced diet looks like for everyone! So why not get the whole family in on the health kick and enjoy nutritious, balanced meals together.
Foods to Avoid when Pregnant
When it comes to what to avoid during pregnancy, the basic rule of thumb is not to touch anything that could have bacterias that cause food poisoning, particularly in the first stages of pregnancy. A bout of salmonella, e Coli or listeria can enhance your risk of miscarriage. Avoid eating:
- Raw fish (such as some sushi dishes).
- Soft cheeses like brie, camembert, and feta.
- Instore deli salads (particularly those containing ham, chicken, fish, eggs or mayo).
You should also try and cut down on processed sugars and fats to keep blood circulation healthy, avoid mood highs and crashes and, later on, decrease high-risk pregnancy conditions like gestational diabetes.
For a more comprehensive list of what to avoid eating during pregnancy, see the link to our Safe Pregnancy Foods guide at the bottom of this article.
Pregnancy Vitamins and Supplements
If you’re basically sticking to the balanced diet for pregnant women that we described above, you should be getting all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. EXCEPT one very important vitamin: Folic Acid. This vitamin B derivative cannot be absorbed in large doses from foods but can help you avoid birth defects.
Most obstetricians recommend taking folic acid pregnancy supplements before pregnancy to help the production of red blood cells which, in turn, helps your baby’s spinal and brain development and assists in preventing birth defects in those areas.
Because the spinal cord and brain are being developed in the first 3 or 4 weeks of pregnancy, it is recommended that you start taking daily folic acid supplements as long as a year before becoming pregnant and continue taking them throughout your pregnancy.
Foods that Help with Pregnancy Symptoms
One of the most unpleasant early pregnancy signs is nausea (that so-called “morning sickness” that actually strikes any time of day!) but there are a few things you can do to keep it under control. Here are a few nutritional tricks for easing your morning sickness:
- Try an keep something in your stomach at all times – have small, nutritional meals often (perhaps 7 or 8 snack-size meals instead of 3 large meals).
- Avoid foods that are rich in flavor around the times that your nausea tends to strike – nibble on some plain water crackers instead.
- Ginger has been used for relieving nausea since the beginning of time – try chewing some crystallized ginger or sipping ginger tea.
For a more comprehensive guide to keeping early pregnancy symptoms at bay, see our link at the bottom of this article.
Exercise for Pregnant Women
Exercise when pregnant really depends on how active you were before you conceived. If you were already fairly fit and active, you should try to keep up with the same level of activity – if you suddenly stop, it’ll be an unnecessary shock to the system and you risk gaining more weight than you need to.
Pregnancy workouts shouldn’t be strenuous weight lifting or muscle building activities – cardio is the key to getting your blood pumping so that Baby gets everything they need. Aim for at least a half hour walk each day and perhaps some energizing yoga (see our article at the bottom of this post).
Some gyms even offer group workouts for pregnant women which can be a great way to meet other new moms at the same time as getting some exercise! Find out more about effective pregnancy workouts here.
Summary: Pregnancy Nutrition is Easier than it’s Made out to Be
It’s not rocket science, healthy food for pregnant women is the same as healthy food for anybody – it’s just that, when you’re pregnant, it’s not just you that you’re feeding when you put something in your mouth, so the stakes are higher and you need to think a little more carefully. Basically, if you remember these simple “rules”, you should be able to keep your nutrition on track during pregnancy:
Eating healthy during pregnancy should be a family activity because what’s good for you is good for everybody. Cook at home as much as you can and eat lots of foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein, iron, and fiber.
Remember that any foods that could harbor bacteria like salmonella, e-Coli, and listeria are foods to be avoided during pregnancy. Cook your foods carefully and employ good food safety while preparing and storing foods.
Regular pregnancy exercise will help keep your heart pumping and your body working hard on growing that baby. In the early stages of pregnancy, try and keep your activity levels at about the same rate as they were before you conceived and maintain this for as long as you can (it’ll also help you sleep better and ward off the dreaded pregnancy insomnia!).
Don’t STRESS about food! Those pesky pregnancy hormones are causing enough troubles with mood as it is. Don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally pretend the “eating for two” myth is real and indulge yourself. No one eats a perfect, balanced diet every day. Just relax, eat well, and do the best you can!
Other Useful Links and Articles on Our Pregnancy Site
Want to learn more about how to stay healthy during pregnancy? We’ve got lots more friendly, practical advice for busy modern mothers right here:
If you’re looking for a way to take some “me time” at the same time as getting some exercise while pregnant, yoga could be the key. Practicing yoga during pregnancy has proven benefits for your body, your mind, and your baby! Read more here!
A more detailed look at how you can ensure you’re getting all the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients – even when you can’t keep anything down due to pregnancy nausea!
Have you seen the dreaded “foods not to eat while pregnant” lists? You know – the ones that don’t give you any reason why you shouldn’t be eating these foods and leave you wondering what you CAN eat! Throw it away and use our comprehensive list of healthy food for pregnancy and foods to avoid while pregnant which focuses on what you CAN eat and gives the scientific reasons why each food is good or bad.