Carly Davis, MS, RDN, LD
What you eat during pregnancy can make a huge impact on the health and well-being of your baby. But even before you become pregnant, eating well is important and can boost your fertility. Baptist Health recommends making healthy changes to your diet at least 3 months before your planned conception. Here are a few things to remember: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods, and protein every day. These foods will provide the nutrients you need as you prepare for a healthy pregnancy. You should begin taking a daily prenatal vitamin before you become pregnant in addition to eating a healthful diet to ensure all nutrient needs are met.
Folate or Folic Acid
Folate or folic acid is an important B vitamin that can help reduce the chances of birth defects, especially during the early stages of fetal development. It is important to make sure you are consuming enough folate 3-6 months before conception to prevent neural tube defects. Dark leafy greens, nuts, fortified cereals and grains, citrus fruits and legumes are good sources of folate.
Calcium needs for women before and during pregnancy are approximately 1000 mg of calcium per day. One cup of milk contains around 1/3 of your daily calcium needs, but so do most fortified plant-milk beverages like soy or almond milk. White beans, bok choy, broccoli, sesame seeds and almonds can also help you meet your needs.
Iron helps prevent anemia and plays a role in providing oxygen to all your body tissues. Good sources of iron are lean meat, fish, dry beans and peas, spinach and whole-wheat breads. When eating plant-based iron sources (beans, greens or whole grains) you can increase absorption of iron 3-6 times by eating it with a rich source of vitamin C (i.e. citrus fruits, peppers or strawberries).
Plenty of Protein
Protein is found in foods such as beans, lean meats and nuts and is crucial for your baby’s growth. Protein is also crucial in the development of the placenta, other maternal tissues, and healthy red blood cells. We also recommend that women avoid excessive caffeine
while trying to conceive. The recommended amount per day is no more than 200 mg, the approximate amount found in a 12-ounce cup of coffee. Women who are trying to get pregnant should not drink alcohol.
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Baptist Health is committed to educating women who are thinking about starting a family. If you’re planning for pregnancy, download Baptist Health’s free resource: the Planning for a Family Checklist