If you’re anything like me during my pregnancies, you’re overwhelmed with making sure you have a healthy pregnancy diet. I had a nutritious diet to begin with. But after I got pregnant, I was constantly concerned about not getting the proper pregnancy nutrition or eating something that could harm my baby.
I found myself googling what to eat during pregnancy for months. What could I eat? What couldn’t I eat? What pregnancy nutrition tips did I absolutely need to ensure my baby was healthy?
With all the conflicting research out there, I was often left more confused than informed.
Eventually, in my second trimester, the opposing views on pregnancy nutrition left me so discouraged, I stopped looking for answers. Instead, my pregnancy diet consisted of eating what I craved and making sure I didn’t overdo it on the calories. I also settled on a prenatal vitamin that tasted good and didn’t make me feel nauseous. (Yes, it’s possible!)
But even when I stopped obsessing over my pregnancy and whether or not my prenatal vitamin was in-utero nutrition during pregnancy, I still had some underlying anxiety about it.
Was my pregnancy diet providing the nourishment my baby girl needed in the womb?
You’re Not Alone – Pregnancy Nutrition Worries Are Common
Working for Expectful has shown me many women feel the same way regarding nutrition during pregnancy. Even though like me, pregnant women want to do what’s best for their growing baby, they don’t know where to turn to for accurate pregnancy nutrition information, so they end up “winging it.”
When I discovered how common worrying about what to eat during pregnancy was and because I knew how difficult finding credible pregnancy diet sources can be, I decided to contact a credible source. I reached out to Dr. Robin Berzin, the founder, and CEO of Parsley Health, for her insight about ensuring a healthy pregnancy diet.
The Dos and Don’ts of Pregnancy Nutrition
Q: What are the “DO’S” of pregnancy nutrition – the things you definitely want in your diet and why?
A: First, you want to balance blood sugar. When you’re pregnant, you make more glucose, making you more likely to develop Gestational Diabetes. Many pregnant women are tempted to eat a lot of carbs, but a healthy pregnancy diet means pregnant women should stay away from eating too many to avoid Gestational Diabetes.
Pregnant women should feed themselves and their babies a nutrient-dense, low-carb diet. Unfortunately, most standard diets today don’t include much nutrition and are high in carbohydrates and sugar – the opposite of what to eat during pregnancy.
Instead, focus on eating these in your pregnancy diet:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: Healthy pregnancy nutrition equals a brightly-colored diet!
- Lean proteins: Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, bean, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products build, maintain, and repair you and your baby’s muscle tissues during pregnancy. They aid in cognitive development.
- Whole grains: Look for whole wheat, oats, barley, corn, rice listed early in the ingredients listings of your foods. Whole grains are healthy carbohydrates and the primary source of your energy. They also provide essential vitamins and minerals you need during pregnancy.
- Healthy fats: Foods like avocados, nuts, olives, olive, coconut, grapeseed, and sunflower oils, almonds, peanut butter, eggs, tofu aid in your baby’s brain and eye development.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish, oils, walnuts, and flaxseeds contain Omega-3s essential to your baby’s brain and for your breastfeeding nutrients. Our Parsley Health Prenatal Vitamin is an excellent source for all of your pregnancy nutrition needs!
- Water: When considering what to eat during pregnancy, you can’t forget what you should drink. And the answer is WATER – lots and lots of water! As a pregnant woman, you need to drink more water than the average individual since it helps your body create amniotic fluid and extra blood, and your baby’s tissue. It also carries nutrients to your baby, aids in your digestion, and flushes out toxins.
Q: What are the “DON’TS” of pregnancy nutrition, the things you definitely don’t want in your diet and why?
A: Many times, pregnant women focus on the scary things they should avoid eating during pregnancy. That’s why, at Parsley Health, we help our members optimize their pregnancy diet towards what grows a healthy baby, as opposed to simply avoiding the bad stuff.
But, of course, there are several things you should avoid during pregnancy:
- Mercury: There’s a lot of mercury in our fish these days, especially in tuna and swordfish. But there’s also a guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council that I recommend here.
- Unpasteurized food: These are foods that haven’t been heated enough to kill off harmful bacteria. In the OB/GYN world, it’s recommended to avoid everything unpasteurized. But I tend to think that’s a little extreme. The reality is we’re swimming in a world of bacteria, and you’re not going to live a sterilized life, nor do you want to. Generally speaking, I highly recommend taking a probiotic during pregnancy, avoiding unpasteurized dairy and raw sushi. When it comes to having something like a bit of kombucha here and there, I think it’s low risk.
- Junk food (AKA the typical American diet): Unfortunately, the everyday American diet is high in carbs and sugars: pasta, cookies, bread, and cakes galore. But these are things you don’t want to overdo yourself when thinking about what to eat when pregnant.
You want to avoid processed foods, particularly ones containing dyes, preservatives, chemicals, and other products we not only don’t need in our bodies. Many of these things are also hormone disruptors.
Vegan and Vegetarian Pregnancy Diet Options
Q: What are some things vegan / vegetarian women should consider when it comes to their eating habits during pregnancy?
A: Generally, vegan and vegetarian diets are acceptable for pregnant women as long as they eat well and take a good prenatal vitamin. Unfortunately, not all prenatals are created equal. It’s crucial to ensure your prenatal vitamin isn’t filled with chemicals, dyes, and other poor-quality ingredients. Many prenatal vitamins on the market don’t have a good nutrient panel.
For vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters, healthy pregnancy nutrition comes down to the quality of food and ingredients. However, it’s essential to test your nutrient levels throughout pregnancy. At Parsley Health, we run a pregnancy panel around gestational weeks 10, 20, and 30. That way, you can make sure you have optimal nutrient levels, like B12, omega-3, and folate, at least three times during your pregnancy.
We also check your iron levels to make sure you’re not anemic. Most women get a little bit anemic toward the end of pregnancy, which is why most prenatal vitamins include iron.
Many women ask about calcium. Generally, we all get enough dietary calcium. But because many people are low in Vitamin D without knowing, it’s essential your vitamin regime includes Vitamin D. Without it, you’re unable to absorb calcium from your pregnancy diet. Even ff you are dairy-free, you may be eating enough calcium, but if you’re Vitamin D deficient, you might not be absorbing it right. So in truth, it’s really about testing and seeing where people are and then optimizing from there, whether you are a meat-eater, vegan, or vegetarian.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, I recommend working with a nutritionist or with one of our health coaches at Parsley Health if you’re worried about making sure you get the right amount of nutrients and protein in your pregnancy diet.
Protein and Calorie Recommendations for Optimal Pregnancy Nutrition
Q: How much protein is recommended during pregnancy and why?
A: Protein needs are highly variable, and it really depends on your goals and your activity level. I don’t think that there’s an exact number. However, if you’re vegan and you’re not getting any source of animal protein whatsoever, it can be really difficult to get good sources of complete protein. Plant proteins are rarely complete proteins in themselves, although you can combine certain plants to get complete proteins.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, it’s not that you can’t get enough protein to have a healthy pregnancy. It’s just that you have to work a little harder at it and think about it a little bit more. I recommend working with a nutritionist, or with one of our health coaches at Parsley if you’re worried about making sure you get enough protein in your diet.
Most people get too much protein or get plenty of protein in this country. But in some cases they’re not getting enough and in those circumstances, it’s really about quality and being mindful about how your proteins are coming in rather than shooting for an exact number.
Q: Is there a recommended amount of calories to consume per day while pregnant? If so, what is the recommendation and why?
A: I think we’ve all been sold on the idea that pregnant women need to eat for two. We know now that’s not true. Proper pregnancy nutrition means that you should eat the same number of calories you consume when you’re not pregnant at the beginning of pregnancy. As the baby grows, the number of calories increases, but not by as much as you might think.
In the first trimester, you don’t really need additional calories. However, as the baby begins growing, building muscles, bones, and so forth, it’s said to add up to 300 extra calories per day. That’s the equivalent of a handful of almonds. If you want to eat more in terms of volume, try eating some fresh fruits and vegetables! They are highly recommended as far as what to eat during pregnancy and have a low caloric density. That means you can eat LOTS!
I encourage women to eat regularly, keep their blood sugar balanced, focus on proteins, greens, and healthy fats, and avoid the temptation to snack on unhealthy stuff like refined carbohydrates. Eat normally and know you don’t need to massively up your calorie intake to have a healthy pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be a time of great excitement but also one filled with a lot of uncertainty, especially when it comes to things like what you can and cannot eat. It’s my hope that providing education around nutrition during pregnancy in this interview with Dr. Robin Berzin helps you to feel empowered throughout your pregnancy journey and informs you of the choices you have when it comes to your and your baby’s health.
Dr. Robin Berzin Does More Than Help with Pregnancy Nutrition
Interviewing Dr. Robin Berzin, I was blown away to hear about all of the revolutionary work she’s doing at Parsley Health to support pregnant women and new mother’s throughout their journeys.
Wanting to help more women through their pregnancy journey, we’ve decided to partner with Parsley Health to gift all of our Expectful users $100 off of their Complete Care annual membership or $50 off their one-time Parsley Assessment.
About Parsley Health’s Complete Care annual membership:
Our annual membership is for people who want to address a specific health concern and want advanced testing and regular tracking, and unlimited access to a world-class medical team.
As part of the Parsley membership, each patient receives a personalized health plan to guide them through lifestyle and nutrition interventions that we use in conjunction with prescription medications and referrals to specialists. Members receive five annual visits with a doctor (totaling nearly four hours) in addition to five sessions with a certified on-staff health coach, unlimited direct messaging with their health team, online access to their health data, exclusive perks and entry into a broader Parsley wellness community.
Click here to get $100 off your Complete Care Annual Membership and your coupon will be automatically applied during checkout.
About The Parsley Assessment:
This one-time physician + health coach assessment is for people who are generally feeling well but want to optimize their health. Think of this as a modern, in-depth annual physical that helps you be proactive, connect with your body, and identify issues before they become more serious. Includes in-depth biomarker testing, 75 min. history and physical exam, a personalized health plan for the year ahead with protocols for nutrition, lifestyle, mental health and medication, and a 45-minute health coaching session to tie it all together into actionable next steps.
Click here to get $50 off your Parsley Assessment and your coupon will be automatically applied during checkout.
It’s our hope that just as Expectful’s meditations nourish your mind, that Parsley Health’s nutrition coaching provides your body with everything it needs during pregnancy and beyond.