How to prevent obesity in pregnancy: what to eat so that you and your baby are healthy

Without a doubt, pregnancy is a special stage in the life of every woman, in which it is important eat enough to give the developing baby vital nutrients you need to grow strong. However, it is very important to monitor body weight, specifically it is very important to avoid overweight and obesity. It is a very important control measure in any healthy pregnancy, it is well known that women with obesity have a higher risk of complications in pregnancy. Additionally, babies may be at increased risk for premature birth and certain birth defects.

In the past, doctors did not want to promote weight loss during pregnancy in obese women because they feared it could harm the baby. Fortunately, research shows that women who are slightly overweight in pregnancy or even obese, can exercise and diet to lose weight safely and without any negative impact on the well-being of the baby. Nevertheless, the perfect scenario will always be to prevent morbid obesity.

In general, obesity is measured by a concept called Body Mass Index, which is calculated using height and weight. Obesity is considered when it is 30 or more and overweight from 25. According to information released by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 3 adult women in the United States is obese. Which makes it very likely that some women when they get pregnant already suffer from obesity.

The truth is that there are significant risks related to pregnancy and obesity, since it increases the risk of complications: spontaneous abortion, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, blood clots, bleeding more abundant than normal after delivery and affectations in the newborn. It is worth mentioning that these problems can also happen to any pregnant woman, whether or not she is obese. But with a higher BMI, the risk increases. While medical follow-up is simply essential, there are some dietary measures that can be very useful in preventing obesity during pregnancy.

What to eat in pregnancy to prevent obesity?

One of the main myths around feeding in pregnant women is to believe that it is necessary to “eat for two”. The reality is that the most relevant thing is to follow a balanced, colorful and nutritious dietIn fact, according to specialists, it is only necessary to increase the calorie intake to 500 more. According to experts from the Cleveland Clinic, there are some basic elements to achieve a balanced diet and protect body weight.

It is recommended between 200 and 300 extra calories from foods rich in essential nutrients, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products. Just as it is important to take care of what you eat, it is just as important to be clear about the foods that should be avoided, such as fast foods, ultra-processed foods, sweets, soft drinks and, of course, alcohol. In addition, they emphasize the importance of adhering to certain guidelines:

1. Foods rich in calcium

The body needs calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also allows the blood to clot normally, the nerves to function properly, and the heart to beat normally. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends ensuring the intake of 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day for pregnant and lactating (breastfeeding) women. Women age 19 and younger need 1,300 mg a day. The consumption of 4 servings of dairy products or foods rich in calcium is recommended, it is worth mentioning that dairy is the best source of calcium. There are also other good alternatives that are important to integrate: green leafy vegetables, fortified whole grains, whole wheat bread, fatty fish, almonds and sesame seeds.

Dairy products. / Photo: Shutterstock

2. Foods rich in folic acid

Folic acid is used to make the extra blood your body needs during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the March of Dimes recommend 400 micrograms of folic acid per day for pregnant women. It is usually an easy amount to comply with in addition to the intake of prenatal vitamins. Additionally, foods rich in folic acid are incredibly nutritious and support your metabolism: lentils, beans, green leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, and broccoli), citrus fruits, and nuts.

Lentils. / Photo: Shutterstock

3. Increase your protein intake

Proteins are a very important nutrient in weight loss and also for a good pregnancy, they play an important role in growth and development. In addition, proteins are necessary for energy, and very important for building and repairing different parts of the body, especially the brain, muscles, and blood. Therefore, one of the main dietary measures to take care of the weight in pregnancy is to increase the consumption of proteins, which will also serve to ensure the good growth of the baby. Protein requirements can be varied, for example: a 150-pound woman needs 75 grams of protein every day. The consumption of proteins of high biological value is recommended such as shellfish, fish, lean meats, poultry, Greek or natural yogurt, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds without salt.

Eggs. / Photo: Pixabay

4. Iron

Iron is an important part of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. It is a nutrient that helps to develop resistance to stress and is a good ally in the prevention of diseases, it helps to avoid fatigue, weakness, irritability, depression and possible anemia. Pregnant women are advised to consume 27 mg total iron per day between meals and prenatal vitamins. There are very good sources such as: whole grain products, lean beef and pork, dried fruits and beans, sardines, and green leafy vegetables.

Spinach. / Photo: Shutterstock

5. Foods rich in Vitamin A

Foods with vitamin A are important to provide energy and also guarantee the good development of the baby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 770 mcg of vitamin A per day, through consumption: green leafy vegetables, bright yellow or orange vegetables (for example, carrots or sweet potatoes), milk and liver. In general, it is recommended to consume 2 to 3 servings of vegetables, 2 servings of fruits, at least 3 servings of whole wheat bread, cereals, pasta, 2 to 3 servings of lean protein (for example, meat, fish and poultry).

Bunch of carrots for weight loss
Carrots./Photo: Pixabay

5. Foods rich in vitamin D

The vitamin D is essential for the immune systemIn addition, together with calcium, it is of great help for the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. It is also essential for healthy skin and eyesight. All pregnant women need 600 international units of vitamin D per day. Not only will it protect them from any disease and infection, it is a good ally to burn fat, you will find products such as fortified milk, fatty fish like salmon, egg yolks, and cheeses, and sun exposure.

Iron fish
Salmon. / Photo: Shutterstock

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