How a healthy pregnancy reduces childhood obesity risks

During your pregnancy, it may be tempting to give in to your cravings and eat all of the delicious, indulgent, junk food you usually try to avoid. You are eating for two, after all. While it’s OK to derail your normal diet and splurge every so often, your eating habits often play a major role in your unborn child’s health. For instance, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables provides your unborn baby with proper nourishment, and lowers the risk for birth defects and other health problems. A healthy pregnancy also helps lower your child’s risk for childhood obesity.

At Women’s Care Florida, we have plenty of resources to help our patients create a healthy eating plan. Our obstetricians also provide their patients with guidance around nutrition and other healthy pregnancy habits. We’re sharing a few of their tips on how pregnant women can reduce the risk for childhood obesity in their children.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet

Your diet should include foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that lend to good health for you and your baby. If you’re unable to get all the nutrients you need from food, talk to your OB-GYN about nutritional supplements that can help. In many cases, taking supplements such as folic acid can help lower the risk for birth defects.

Your pregnancy diet should include the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lean proteins
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Healthy fats (omega-3s, polyunsaturated / monounsaturated fats)

Consult with your OB-GYN about other foods that are safe and healthy for you to eat throughout pregnancy. A pregnancy diet high in fat and sugar increases your risk for gestational diabetes, and can lead to high baby birth weight. Studies have shown that babies whose mothers had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for childhood obesity.

Avoiding excess weight gain
Many people think being pregnant requires eating for two. As a result, some women literally double up on portions to support the growth of their babies. However, eating for two can lead to extra weight gain during pregnancy, and increases the risk for gestational diabetes.

Most OB-GYNs say that you’ll only need to consume an extra 200 to 500 calories per day throughout pregnancy, depending on your physical activity level. For example, an athletic woman or someone who exercises regularly may need 500 extra calories per day throughout her pregnancy. Ask your OB-GYN about the recommended amount of extra calories you should be consuming, and try to avoid excess weight gain.

Choosing to breastfeed
Studies have shown that children who are breastfed are generally in better health than formula-fed children, and at a lower risk for childhood obesity. Additionally, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends breastfeeding your child for the first six months to provide optimal nutrition and health protection.

Breastfeeding also helps reduce your child’s risk for the following:

  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal infections
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

During any appointment with your OB-GYN throughout pregnancy, don’t hesitate to ask about weight gain, nutrition, and the benefits of breastfeeding. Staying on top of your health during pregnancy is more important than ever, and improves your baby’s outcome for good health in years to come.

If you want to learn more about pregnancy nutrition, schedule an appointment with an OB at Women’s Care Florida today.

Pregnancy diet questions answered

As an expectant mother, eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do for your growing baby. Poor nutrition can have devastating long-term effects on your child, including poor health, diminished cognitive and physical development, and an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. Understanding pregnancy diet and nutrition is a great start on your road to motherhood.

To help you eat — and feel — better during pregnancy, we’ve put together answers to the more frequently asked dietary questions we hear at Women’s Care Florida.

Do I need to take a prenatal vitamin?

During pregnancy, your daily diet requires an increase in certain nutrients, including protein, folate, calcium, fiber and iron. Prenatal vitamins ensure expectant mothers get enough of these key nutrients; however, they should not replace a healthy diet.

I already eat pretty healthy … isn’t that enough?

Many women don’t realize how significant the increase in key nutrients needs to be during pregnancy, and as a result, don’t get enough. This Mayo Clinic article offers a good overview of the nutrients, how much you need, and what foods are good sources. Here’s a quick look:

  • Folate: (400 to 800 micrograms a day) Helps prevent neural tube defects. Sources include green leafy vegetables, oranges, peanuts and fortified cereals.
  • Calcium: (1,000 milligrams a day) Strong bone and teeth development; helps circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. Found in milk, yogurt, pasteurized cheese, broccoli, spinach, fortified cereals and juices.
  • Protein: (71 grams a day) Helps with growth; especially important in second and third trimesters. Good sources of protein include cottage cheese, poultry, fish, peanut butter and eggs.
  • Iron: (27 milligrams a day) Makes more blood to supply oxygen to baby; carries oxygen to your muscles to help avoid fatigue, weakness, irritability and depression. Lean red meat, poultry, fish, beans and fortified cereals are good sources of iron.

You can also find a list of 13 pregnancy superfoods on our website.

I heard you shouldn’t eat fish during pregnancy. Is that true?

In general, no. While it’s important to avoid fish that are high in mercury like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish; fatty fish, like salmon, sardines and lake trout, are an excellent source of omega-3s which can help boost your baby’s brain development.

It is very important that you familiarize yourself with foods that should be avoided during pregnancy, as they can contain bacteria, parasites and viruses that are unhealthy to you and your unborn baby. Visit the checklist at foodsafety.gov.

Is it okay to drink an occasional glass of wine?

No. Alcohol consumption of any amount should be avoided during pregnancy. Drinking raises your odds of miscarriage and can cause problems with your child’s development.

How about caffeine? I can’t function without my morning coffee.

Because it’s not completely clear what the effects of caffeine are during pregnancy, we’re going to align with the March of Dimes recommendation and suggest limiting caffeine to 200 milligrams each day. This is approximately the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee, making your morning coffee ritual okay… but you may want to consider switching to decaf anyway.

I’m afraid I’ll gain too much weight. Can I diet while pregnant?

No. Dieting of any kind is unwise during pregnancy. Ideally, you should reach a healthy weight before conceiving. Your dietary focus now should be on providing you and your baby with nutritious foods that will promote safe, healthy growth.

“Eating for two” doesn’t mean eating twice as much. Normal weight gain during pregnancy is 25-35 pounds, an amount that varies depending on your pre-pregnancy weight. Find your healthy amount on the USDA’s pregnancy weight gain calculator.

You’re sure to have many more questions about your pregnancy and good nutrition. Be sure to schedule your first prenatal visit as soon as you learn you’re pregnant. If you’re planning a pregnancy, now is the time to schedule a preconception health visit.

For more information and pregnancy support, make an appointment with a physician at Women’s Care Florida. Our experts have helped thousands of women prepare for their deliveries.