Eating Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
Katherine Takayasu, MD, MBA, Center for Integrative Medicine & Wellness
Food is medicine! It brings energy and vital nutrients to a growing baby and helps mama to feel her best. There is arguably no more important time than pregnancy and breastfeeding to focus on nutrition. Find balance in your own diet with these tips from Dr. Katie.
1. Ginger helps with morning sickness and constipation: ginger is a fantastic supplement throughout all of pregnancy. Ginger acts as a pro-kinetic, meaning it gets digestion moving in the right direction. It’s helpful for indigestion, nausea, and constipation. Dr. Katie recommends trying a homemade ginger tea, which is as simple as taking a small knob of peeled ginger root and boiling it in water for 10-15 minutes, then straining. This spicy tea is delicious! If short on time, try a ginger tea by the brand Traditional Medicinals. Or take ginger in supplement form. Dr. Katie recommends 500mg two or three times a day with meals.
2. Avoid unpasteurized foods: there are more raw, unprocessed foods in our diets these days, which makes finding safe food more complex. A pregnant woman is more susceptible to foodborne infections, so it’s generally recommended to stay away from any food that is unpasteurized, including raw dairy products like milk and cheese, as well as homemade fermented foods like kombucha, yogurt, and kimchi.
3. Cut out the deli meats (but no one should be eating those anyway): in general, processed meats are not good for anyone given the additives, excess salt, and association with increased risk for colorectal cancer. Deli meats are to be avoided during pregnancy due to risk for an infection with Listeria, which can be life-threatening to a pregnancy or new baby. Save your club sandwich for postpartum dining.
4. Honor your cravings…but don’t eat too much junk: nutritious foods can be unappealing to a pregnant woman with intense nausea or serious food cravings. Go ahead, you have Dr. Katie’s approval: eat the French fries. Enjoy them. But remember the 80-20 rule: 80% of what we eat needs to be ultra nutritious. Try to find balance at each meal by including a vegetable, even at breakfast. Easy, morning-sickness-friendly ways to incorporate vegetables are smoothies, snacks of hummus and carrots, or cooked vegetables in broth-based soups.
5. Fully cook your animal products: Dr. Katie advocates for a diet that’s mostly plant-based, but many pregnant women want animal protein. Be sure to cook eggs, meat, and fish completely. Sorry, no eggs-over-easy, steak tartare, or sushi until after delivery!
6. Prioritize calcium, magnesium, and protein: pregnant women need more calcium, magnesium, and protein than before pregnancy. A pregnant woman needs about 100g of protein per day and 1300mg of calcium per day. Magnesium is also in high demand during pregnancy and has additional positive effects on placenta function. Choose foods like kale and spinach, plain greek yogurt, wild salmon, or almonds to find the right nutrition for your body.
7. You’re not really “eating for two”: a pregnant woman only needs an additional 300 calories a day to support her baby. This is equivalent to half a sandwich, two handfuls of nuts, or half a large bar of 85-90% extra dark chocolate (Dr. Katie’s favorite!). Avoid excessive weight gain with pregnancy, which increases the risk for gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and other pregnancy complications. Weight gain guidelines are based on pre-pregnancy weight and vary with each woman’s needs.
Katherine Wehri Takayasu, M.D., M.B.A. practices Integrative Medicine combining traditional Western medicine with evidence-based complementary modalities at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut. She helps patients heal naturally with acupuncture, mind-body medicine, botanical medicine, nutrition, and lifestyle optimization. She is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University/New York Presbyterian and teaches the next generation of doctors about healing the whole patient mind, body, and spirit. For her own wellbeing, Dr. Katie practices what she preaches. She engages in yoga and meditation regularly and enjoys experimenting with plant-based cuisine in the kitchen.