During pregnancy, you need more of certain nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy. It’s best to get these nutrients mostly from food and drinks, but it may be hard to get enough. That’s why most doctors also recommend a daily prenatal supplement (also known as a prenatal vitamin). Ask your doctor which one is right for you. You may also need a daily supplement when you’re breastfeeding, but prenatal vitamins may not be the right choice for breastfeeding. Ask your doctor if you need a supplement — and if so, which one is right for you.
It’s important to focus on four key nutrients:
Folic acid (a type of folate added to foods and supplements) is key for preventing serious problems with your baby’s brain and spine. Doctors recommend that you start taking folic acid before you get pregnant. Before and during pregnancy, take a daily supplement with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid — check the label on your prenatal supplement to make sure it has enough. It’s also important to get enough folate from foods like dark green veggies (e.g. spinach and broccoli) and beans, peas and lentils (black-eyed peas and kidney beans).
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Iron helps your baby grow and develop normally. Eat these foods to get enough iron: lean meats, poultry and some seafood and dark green veggies (spinach and swiss chard) and beans, peas and lentils. Iodine is important for your baby’s brain development — and prenatal supplements may not have enough.
If you add salt to your food, make sure it’s iodized salt (salt with added iodine). Eat these foods to get enough iodine: seafood ( cod, tuna, and shrimp), low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese) and eggs.
Choline is a nutrient that helps your baby’s brain and spine develop—and prenatal supplements may not have enough. Eat these foods to get enough choline: eggs, lean meats, poultry, and seafood (beef, chicken breast, and cod) and beans, peas and lentils (white beans and kidney beans). You can also get some key nutrients from fortified and enriched foods. For example, if you eat refined grains like white bread or pasta, choose enriched options with added iron and folic acid.
Is it safe to eat seafood? Many types of seafood are safe to eat while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding — and seafood is good for your baby’s brain development. Aim to eat up to 12 ounces of seafood a week. Just make sure to choose fish and shellfish that are low in mercury. And always cook seafood to 145 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re pregnant. Learn how to choose safe seafood at fda.gov/ food/consumers/advice-about-eating-fish.
When you’re pregnant, you and your baby are at higher risk for getting sick from germs that may be in certain foods. Make sure milk and juice say “pasteurized” on the label — never drink raw (unpasteurized) milk or juice. If you eat soft cheeses like brie and feta, make sure the label says they’re made with pasteurized milk. Don’t eat raw sprouts, which can have germs that are hard to wash off. Cook seafood, meat, poultry, and eggs to safe temperatures. You can find safe cooking temperatures at FoodSafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature. If you eat deli meat or hot dogs, heat them to steaming hot (165 °F).
April Anderson is Monroe County Health & Well-Being Educator/FoodWIse coordinator.
La Crosse Tribune reporter Steve Rundio can be reached at [email protected].