Did you know that during pregnancy, an expectant mother needs to consume at least 80-120 grams of protein daily? Outside of pregnancy, a healthy woman needs 30-60 grams of protein daily. During pregnancy, however, the demands on her body are much different.
This extra protein is vital to build her baby’s tissues and organs during each trimester, support the growth of her placenta and uterus, and sustain her liver and kidneys, which are working overtime to meet the growing needs of her pregnancy. Women who are protein-deficient during pregnancy are at higher risk for a number of complications, such as pre-term labor and pre-eclampsia. A nutritious, protein-rich diet should be considered as important as every other preventative measure expectant mothers take during pregnancy.
While 80-120 grams of protein may sound like an overwhelming amount of food, consider that 7 grams equals one ounce. When broken down into ounces, a pregnant woman needs at least 11-17 one-ounce servings of protein daily. (A good example of a one ounce serving is 8 cheese cubes.) Consuming the necessary amount of protein and nutrients need not be complicated, and here are a few tips to help simplify when you’re “eating for two:”
• Cheese cubes, hard-boiled eggs, high-protein cereal (such as Kashi), trail mix and yogurt are all great snacks that add protein to your diet.
• Try to eat a little something with protein in it during each waking hour of the day, such as a handful of nuts or a glass of milk. This is especially important during the second and third trimesters.
• Portion out protein-rich snacks into small, zip top baggies, which are easy to grab when you’re on the go.
• If you work outside of your home, or are going to be gone for more than an hour, plan accordingly and bring a wide variety of protein-rich foods with you.
• Aim to have at least 2-3 ounces of protein during each meal. (For example: 2 eggs at breakfast, turkey sandwich with lunch, grilled chicken at dinner.)
• There are many individually-portioned snacks available today. But beware of empty calories! Items such as individual packages of string cheese and trail mix are high in both protein and nutrients. (Stick with trail mixes made with almonds and walnuts, which are higher in nutrients than those with peanuts.)
• Protein bars, such as the Luna Bar, can be a good choice for an “on-the-go” snack. One bar contains about 10 grams of protein. Steer clear of protein bars that are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients.
• Let your hunger be your eating guide, NOT the scale! As women, we don’t like to see the numbers on the scale increasing. However, it is dangerous to skimp on calories during pregnancy. Instead, focus on eating high-quality, nutritious foods, and know that your body AND your baby will reap the benefits!
More information on nutrition during pregnancy, including a daily eating checklist, can be found here.
By Expert Mommy, Sarah Baker