Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nutrition in Pregnancy

Pools, Picnics …… and Puffy Feet

Yes, summer is finally here; bringing with it 90 degree temps and humidity. And for us pregnant folks, also swollen feet, ankles, hands, face, earlobes …. ok maybe not earlobes, but you get the point. Every mother will experience some swelling during pregnancy due to a healthy increase in blood volume, but the summer heat seems to exaggerate the issue. And after spending most of my summer days at the park, the pool and the zoo, my little piggies began to puff up by the end of the day.

So I was proactive and made a few tweaks to my diet. I added more salt. Yep, you read that right …. MORE salt. It’s a common misconception that when you experience edema (swelling) during pregnancy that you should reduce your salt intake, when in fact the opposite is true. During the summer, especially, your body loses a lot of salt (at least 20 grams) through sweating and it needs to be replenished to maintain proper body function. Reducing your sodium consumption can cause essential body fluids to flow out of your circulation and into the tissues, thereby causing swelling. And according to Dr. Brewer, the creator of the Brewer Pregnancy Diet:

“If the situation continues, her [the mother’s] other critical body organs, like the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and brain, become adversely affected by the dwindling blood supply (the kidneys respond, for example, by raising the blood pressure), and her baby begins to suffer intrauterine malnutrition.”

Not only does having an adequate supply of salt help reduce unhealthy swelling, but it also can help lower high blood pressure, maintain proper organ function, ensure proper nutrition reaches baby, treat pre-eclamptic symptoms and even curb those pesky pregnancy leg cramps (because who doesn’t hate those??).

So in response to my puffy toes, I started snacking on cheese & crackers, popcorn, pickles and adding salt to my eggs, potatoes, meat and vegetables. And sure enough, within a few days I noticed a dramatic decrease in swelling!! Bye bye puffy piggies!

Now keep in mind that salt is not the only element needed for a healthy pregnancy. Salting to taste should be a part of a balanced pregnancy diet, which helps ensure the health of both mother and baby. So what does a pregnancy diet look like? Well I’m glad you asked. Along with salting food to taste, a pregnant woman should consume:

  • 80-100 grams of Protein per day - This provides amino acids which are the building blocks of the body. It’s important for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, etc. Lack of protein can also cause swelling, fatigue and lack of appetite.

  • 2 eggs per day - Provides protein and loads of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, the anti-infection protein.

  • 4 servings of milk/dairy products per day - Provides protein, calcium and other essential vitamins & minerals. It’s important for bones, muscle growth, muscle contractions and nerve transmission.

  • 2 servings of green vegetables - Provides Vitamins A and B complex which help your body use the proteins in other food. It’s also a great source of folic acid which is essential for good growth for baby, and prevents neural tube defects.

  • 4+ servings of whole grains per day - Great source of carbohydrates needed to fuel your body. Without carbs, your body will burn the proteins you eat for energy, robbing you and your baby of the building blocks needed for tissue growth & repair.

  • 1-2 servings of Vitamin C foods per day - Crucial in the body’s defense system again infection, keeps your uterus strong and improves iron absorption.

  • 3 servings of fats & oils per day - Needed to help your body absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K. Also contributes to healthy, stretchable skin.

  • 5 servings of yellow and orange fruits & vegetables per week - Provides high amounts of Vitamin A which helps prevent infection and maintains healthy skin.

  • Water - Essential during hot, summer months!! Lack of water can lead to dehydration which reduces energy output by 20% or more. Water accounts for75% of your baby’s total body weight at birth and it acts a solvent and catalyst for biological reactions.

Proper nutrition is one of the biggest “little” things you can do to help stay low risk during pregnancy and ensure the best possible outcomes for you and your baby. So happy summer and happy eating!!

For more information on nutrition during pregnancy, please visit

By Ashley Anderson, Bradley Instructor

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