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By choosing to complete this mail lesson, you have taken the first step in learning more about the importance of nutrition and its relationship to good health. There is no time more important for you to think about what you are eating than when you are expecting a baby. There are many things you can do to make this a happy and healthy time!
To complete this lesson:
- Carefully read this lesson. It should take about 15-20 minutes to complete.
- Answer the questions at the end of the lesson.
- When you are finished, place the questions in the prepaid envelope and place the envelope in the mail.
This mail lesson will discuss:
- Eating during pregnancy
- What foods to avoid during pregnancy
- Food safety during pregnancy
- Physical activity during pregnancy
- The side effects of pregnancy
- Breastfeeding and bottle feeding
Eating During Pregnancy
Does it really matter what you eat while you are pregnant? The answer is yes! Eating well while you are pregnant is important to keep you and your baby healthy.
Eating healthy while you are pregnant may help prevent:
- Pregnancy and delivery problems
- Birth defects
- Low birth weight babies
- Future health problems for you and your baby
Give Your Baby a Healthy Start!
Make the right choices when choosing what to eat.
- Eat when you are hungry. Do not diet while you are pregnant.
- Ask your doctor how much weight you should gain and how much to eat each day.
- Include a variety of foods in your diet. Use MyPyramid to make healthy choices from each food group.
- Eat three meals and 2-3 snacks every day.
The following nutrients/foods are very important for pregnant women:
- Protein helps your baby grow. Good sources: lean meats, poultry, fish, dried beans, lentils, nuts, eggs, and cheese.
- Calcium helps your baby build strong bones and teeth. The best sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products such as cheese and yogurt. Other sources of calcium include dark green vegetables, tofu, and calcium-fortified foods such as certain types of orange juice (read the food label).
- Extra iron is also good for you and your baby. During pregnancy your baby is storing the iron it will need to be healthy after birth. The best sources of iron are red meat, enriched whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes, eggs, and dried fruit. To increase iron absorption, eat foods high in vitamin C when eating iron-rich foods (for example, spaghetti with meat balls). Foods that are high in vitamin C include citrus fruits and tomatoes.
- Folic acid helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. The best sources of folic acid are dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, lean meat, oranges and fortified whole-grains. It is recommended that women of child-bearing age get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. If you are pregnant, you need at least 600 micrograms of folic acid each day.
- Drinking water is important while pregnant. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. It is important to stay hydrated to prevent premature labor.
- Fruits and vegetables contain many important nutrients and fiber. It is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Try to include fruits and/or vegetables with every meal, take fruits, and/or vegetables with you for snacks, or make a fruit and yogurt smoothie for dessert.
Taking a prenatal vitamin is very important. Ask your doctor for suggestions.
What to Avoid
- Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which could result in numerous birth defects. The best way to protect your baby is to have no alcohol while you are pregnant.
- Avoid smoking. Women who smoke during pregnancy risk having a low-birth weight baby. These babies have a lower chance of living. Smoking can also cause premature birth and stillbirth.
- Avoid using medication. Medications can be harmful to unborn babies. Talk to your doctor before you take any prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine in coffee, tea, and soda should be limited during pregnancy because caffeine in beverages can dehydrate your body.
- Avoid certain fish. Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish. They contain high levels of mercury. You can safely eat a total of 12 ounces of other cooked fish and tuna each week.
- Avoid eating nonfood items. Some women may have a nutrition deficiency which causes them to crave nonfood items. Do not eat things that are not actually food, such as chalk, clay, and cornstarch. Eating nonfood items are harmful to you and your baby.
- Other foods to avoid.
- Do not eat hotdogs, lunchmeats, or deli meats unless they are heated until steaming hot. These food items may contain bacteria that are harmful to your baby. These bacteria can be killed by heating the food until it is steaming hot.
- Do not eat soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, and Mexican-style cheese such as “queso blanco fresco” unless it is labeled as made with pasteurized milk. These types of cheeses may contain bacteria called Listeria, which may cause miscarriage.
- Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or eat foods that contain raw milk. Unpasteurized milk may contain a bacteria called Listeria, which may cause miscarriage.
Remember Food Safety!
- Clean: Wash your hands before you prepare food and wash them often with warm water and soap. Use clean dishes, spoons, knives, and forks. Wash countertops with hot soapy water and clean up spills right away.
- Separate: Keep raw meat, fish, and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked.
- Cook: Cook food to a safe internal temperature. Check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Ground beef 160ºF; Chicken breasts 165ºF; Whole turkey 165ºF; Pork 160ºF.
- Chill: Refrigerate or freeze leftovers when you are done eating. Refrigerate or freeze within 1 hour in hot weather (above 90ºF). Do not leave meat, fish, poultry, or cooked food sitting out.
Unless your doctor says not to, you can exercise while pregnant. Being physically active during pregnancy has many benefits:
- It helps prevent too much weight gain during pregnancy.
- It may make labor easier.
Walking or other gentle exercise helps you feel good. Think of a safe place, maybe a park or a mall, where you can take walks. Try to get 30 to 60 minutes of gentle physical activity every day.
The side effects of pregnancy:
- Eat crackers, dry toast, or cereal in the morning before getting out of bed
- Eat four or five small meals a day, instead of two or three big ones
- Drink liquids between meals rather than with them
- Stay away from greasy, fried, or spicy foods
- Keep crackers or pretzels with you to eat when your stomach feels upset
- Pay attention to what makes your stomach upset and what does not
Indigestion or Heartburn
- Eat four or five small meals a day, instead of two or three big ones.
- Try walking around after you eat
- Drink liquids after and between meals instead of with your meals
- Stay away from greasy, fried, or spicy foods
- Do not lie down right after eating
- Wear loose fitting clothing
- Limit foods or drinks that contain caffeine such as soft drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate
- Drink plenty of water, soup and 100% fruit juice
- Include plenty of fiber in your diet by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans and peas
- Try prunes or prune juice
- Be physically active every day
Breastmilk or formula? Take some time to think about breastfeeding your baby. Many mothers start breastfeeding because they know it is best for their baby. They continue to breastfeed because they enjoy the closeness and convenience.
Breastfeeding. Breastmilk is the best food you can give your baby. It is always clean, fresh, and ready when your baby is hungry. Babies can digest breastmilk easier than formula. Breastmilk also helps prevent infections and may help reduce allergies. Breastfeeding is also less expensive than formula feeding, it helps moms lose weight gained during pregnancy, and it builds a special bond between mom and baby.
Bottle feeding. If you choose not to breastfeed, the next best choice is infant formula. If you bottle feed your baby, be sure to hold your baby so you can see their face. Always hold the bottle when feeding your baby. Never lean the bottle against another object because babies can easily choke or develop ear infections if the bottle is left in their mouth when they have finished feeding. Your baby will also benefit from the closeness of being held during feedings.
What you eat really does matter while you are pregnant! Good health habits and good eating habits can help you have a healthy baby.