How diet affects your health and how health affects your diet

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Depending on how restrictive your diet is, and the state of your health before becoming pregnant, you might have some special considerations to make. The first step will always be to talk with your physician — here’s a general idea of what they might tell you.

Dietary considerations:

  • Being vegetarian: Vegetarian and vegan diets can be perfectly safe during pregnancy, but they do take a little more planning. You’ll need to make sure that you get plenty of high-quality proteins and a good balance of whole grains, fruit, vegetables and healthy fats.

    Supplements providing Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Folic Acid, Iron, Calcium and Zinc will add most of the nutrients that might be missing from your diet. Let your obstetrician know if you are (or planning to become) vegetarian or vegan.

  • Avoiding dairy foods: If you don’t eat dairy, Calcium-fortified products like orange juice, soy milk, almond milk and cereals are good non-dairy choices. Non-dairy sources of Calcium are not absorbed as well as dairy-based Calcium, so a Calcium supplement might still be needed. Vitamin D is found mostly in dairy products, so this, too, may need to be supplemented, if you are not in the sunlight most days.

Health considerations:

  • High blood pressure: Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy) requires the attention of your healthcare provider. However, there are steps you can take at home to keep your risks under control:
    • Try to keep to the proper rate of weight gain
    • Stay active, exercising regularly and getting on your feet often
    • Of course, avoid alcohol and tobacco
    • Tell your healthcare provider if you’re taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications
  • Gestational diabetes: If you have gestational diabetes, always follow the advice of your doctor. IT isn’t yet clear why, but it seems that pregnancy hormones can sometimes interfere with insulin. If your insulin is imbalanced it can cause the same thing to happen to baby, resulting in high blood glucose (sugar) levels. Babies born with imbalanced insulin can be at greater risk of becoming obese or diabetic.
    • Treatment for gestational diabetes will aim to keep your blood glucose levels equal to those of a pregnant women who don’t have gestational diabetes. Your doctor will almost always prescribe a special meal plans and scheduled physical activity.
    • Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian specializing in gestational diabetes can provide a customized meal plan and teach you how to manage the condition.
  • Having multiples: Having twins or other multiples means needing more calories. Depending on the weight you started your pregnancy with, your dietary needs may differ, but typically twins requires 3,000 – 3,500 daily calories and triples 4,000 calories. Always ask your healthcare provider before adopting a new dietary plan.
  • Here are some tips for eating when you have more than one baby:

    • Your protein, Folate, Iron and Calcium, and other nutrient needs have gone up a lot. Simply adding calories won’t make up the difference, as much as you might wish multiples was an excuse for more junk food.
    • Try to increase your food intake equally across all the food groups by about 30%. This will get you to around 3,000 calories per day, then add from there based on your specific needs.
    • Consider adding several substantial snacks to your day rather than bulking up meals, your stomach will thank you.
    • You might want to consult with a registered dietitian in your community who has parental expertise.

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