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Nutrition & Pregnancy

Here at Catholic Medical Partners, we understand you have questions and concerns regarding how to eat right for you and your baby.  Check out our In Office Nutrition Program to find out if a dietitian is available through most your doctor’s office to answer specific questions and to help you achieve your best pregnancy outcome. 

Preconception

Thinking of becoming pregnant? Eating right for a healthy baby starts before conception.

preconception and pregnancy nutrition

During Pregnancy

pregnant woman with fruits and vegetables

Feeding Your Baby

baby bottle feeding


Adding Iron to Your Diet

Iron is a mineral that keeps your red blood cells healthy and maintains your energy level. In order to get enough in your diet, try to eat some high-iron foods every day.

Grains
  • Cereal fortified with iron
  • Enriched rice
  • Whole grains such as whole wheat bread
Legumes and Vegetables
  • Beans, dry or canned
  • Seeds especially pumpkin seeds
  • Nuts
  • Dark green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard
Meats
  • Lean beef
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Salmon

To increase iron availability in your body, eat these foods with vitamin C sources, such as orange juice, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. Avoid eating them with calcium-rich foods, such as dairy, since calcium can lower iron absorption.

If you have trouble including the foods into your diet, try these ideas:

  • Cook a large pot of chili with beans and lean beef and store leftovers in the refrigerator to eat throughout the week.
  • Make trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and pretzels and eat it as a snack. Keep a bag in your car or your bag as a quick fix to hunger throughout the day.
  • For a snack or small meal, stuff whole wheat pita bread with canned beans, cheese, and salsa.

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pregnant woman with nausea

Managing Nausea and Vomiting

The joys of pregnancy can also bring some discomforts.  Many women experience nausea or vomiting during the early stages of pregnancy, but it is important to continue to take in nutrients and fluids to prevent dehydration and promote your baby’s development.  These are a list of tips to help you manage your nausea or vomiting.  If symptoms persist, talk to your doctor or dietitian.

  • Instead of eating three larger meals per day, try eating 6‐8 smaller meals per day. This should make you feel more comfortable.
  • Eat dry foods, such as crackers, dry toast, or breadsticks, upon awakening and throughout the day.
  • Try avoiding foods containing a strong odor. Choose bland foods and foods that are served cool or at room temperature. This may be easier to tolerate over hot and spicy foods.
  • Foods that are very sweet, fatty, greasy, or spicy can aggravate nausea.
  • If possible, create a peaceful eating place. A relaxed atmosphere will help calm you and make eating easier. Ideally the room should be well ventilated and not smelling of strong food or cooking odors.
  • Sipping on fruit juices, sports drinks, or soda throughout the day may help to ease nausea. This will help you get enough calories, nutrients, and fluids.
  • Hard candies can help to relieve nausea and get rid of the bad taste in your mouth. Examples include peppermints, lemon drops, and root beer barrels.
  • To help remove your mouth of bad tastes, rinse your mouth before eating with a solution made of 1 tsp baking soda, ¾ tsp salt, and 1 quart of warm or cool water.
  • If you are vomiting, drink clear liquids as often as possible to avoid dehydration. After a bout of vomiting, rinse your mouth and spit out the water. Try not to drink anything for 30 minutes; then try to sip apple juice.
  • Drink adequate fluids with an additional ½ - 1 cup liquid for each episode of vomiting.

Adapted from the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics

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Heartburn

Heartburn is another common symptom during pregnancy.  As your body changes, you might experience heartburn when you didn’t before.  Or, you may notice your current heartburn symptoms are worsening.  Check out our dietitians' recommendations to avoid heartburn:

Reducing or eliminating certain foods may help with preventing heartburn. Everyone is different, so keeping a food log of what foods trigger your symptoms may be able to help you to eliminate certain food items.

Foods to Avoid:
  • Peppermint or Spearmint
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated Beverages
  • Decaffeinated Coffees and Teas (Herbal Tea is allowed except peppermint or spearmint)
  • Pepper and Other Spicy Foods / Condiments
  • High‐Fat Foods
    • 2% and Whole Milk, Cream, High-Fat Cheeses, High‐Fat Yogurt
    • Chocolate Milk, Cocoa
    • Fried Foods
    • Fatty Meats (ie. Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Bacon, Sausage, etc.)
    • Nuts and Nut Butters
    • Pastries and other high-fat desserts
    • Excessive Amounts of Added Fats ( >8 tsp oil, butter, margarine, etc. per day)
  • Any Fruits or Vegetables that cause symptoms (varies from person to person)
  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated Beverages and Acidic Juices such as Orange Juice
Other Tips:
  • Avoid Wearing Tight‐Fitting Clothing
  • Consume Smaller, More Frequent Meals
  • Avoid Lying Down within 2-3 hours of Eating a Meal
  • Avoid Late Night Snacking
  • Keep Head of Bed Elevated / Prop Up Pillows)
  • Do Not Smoke

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Nutrition Therapy for Constipation

Constipation can sneak up on you, so be sure to eat plenty of fiber and drink lots of fluids to help avoid it.  Staying active is also a great way to keep your bowels moving. See Excercise During Pregnancy for tips.

Fiber and fluid can help with constipation and feeling bloated. Increase your fiber intakes slowly over the course of a few weeks, along with  increasing fluids, to help relieve constipation and to prevent symptoms from worsening.

Tips for Adding Fiber:
  • Try finding foods containing whole grains.
  • Slowly increase the amount of fiber you eat to 25g to 35g per day.
  • Eat whole grain breads and cereals. Look for choices with 100% whole wheat, rye, oats, or bran as the first or second ingredient.
  • Choose brown or wild rice over white rice and potatoes.
  • Enjoy a variety of grains, including barley, oats, faro, kamut, and quinoa.
  • Replace some of your white or all‐purpose flour in recipes with whole wheat flour when baking.
  • Add beans and peas to casseroles or soups.
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over juices.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with the peels or skins on.
  • Compare food labels of some common foods you eat with high‐fiber choices. Packaged foods have the amount of fiber listed on the Nutrition Facts Label.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, setting a goal of at least 8 cups per day. Fluid will help the body process fiber without discomfort.
  • If you are taking a calcium or iron supplement, check with your doctor. You may be able to take smaller amounts several times a day.

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Exercise During Pregnancy

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise during pregnancy may help provide relief many of the normal pregnancy symptoms. Becoming active and exercising for at least 30 min on most, if not all days of the week can benefit your health in the following ways:

  • Helps reduce backaches, constipation, bloating and swelling
  • May help prevent or treat gestational diabetes
  • Increase energy
  • Increase mood
  • Improves posture
  • Promotes muscle tone, strength, and endurance
  • Help improve sleep
  • May improve ability to cope with pain during labor
  • Make it easier to get back in shape after the baby is born

One important note to remember is to never exercise to lose weight while you are pregnant!

Guidelines for Exercising While Pregnant

Pregnancy causes many changes in your body. Some of these changes will affect your ability to exercise. For instance due to pregnancy producing hormones your joints become more relaxed and looser. You may also find that the extra weight in the front of your body shifts your center of gravity which can cause you to lose your balance, as well as the extra weight can cause your body to work hardy and your heart rate to increase faster. Most forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy. However, some types of exercise involve positions and movements that may be uncomfortable, tiring or harmful for pregnant women. When you exercise follow these general guidelines for a safe and healthy exercise program and remember to always consult your doctor before starting any exercise routine.

  • Warm-up and cool-down are very important. Slowly increase your intensity and then gradually decrease it before ending your session.
  • Check your pulse regularly and decrease your activity if your heart is beating faster than the target range recommended by your physician.
  • Never exceed a heart rate of 140 beats per minute; Exercise that is too strenuous may increase the baby’s heartbeat to a dangerous level. You should be able to carry on a conversation comfortably while exercising.
  • Don’t try to do too much. The extra weight you are carrying places a greater demand on your body as you exercise. Stop immediately if you feel tired, short of breath or dizzy.
  • Drink water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
  • After the first trimester, avoid doing exercise while lying on your back for an extended period, because it can decrease the oxygen your baby gets from your blood.
  • Avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions that require jarring or quick changes in directions.
  • Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that are easy to move in and help keep you cool.
  • Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support.

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