As a first-time mom and health professional entering in to the end of my second trimester, what I put in my body has never felt so important. When you know what you’re eating will have an impact on your future baby, most of us want to do all that we can to ensure good nutrition and growth during these months. What a great gift it is to give health and a strong start to your little girl or boy. Many moms get consumed with planning for the future, preparing the nursery, and organizing for what will happen during maternity leave. As important as all those aspects of pregnancy are, try to not forget about getting the vital nutrients you and your baby need during this precious time.
Some of the most crucial nutrients needed for a healthy mom and healthy baby are found neatly packaged together in dairy products. The American Pregnancy Association recommends pregnant women consume 3-4 servings of dairy daily. Achieving this will help provide the necessary amounts of calcium, protein, Vitamin D, phosphorus, and hydration.
Important Nutrients for Pregnancy Found in Dairy:
- Calcium - daily requirement for calcium before, during and after pregnancy is about 1,000 mg daily. One cup or 8 ounces of milk provides approximately 300 mg, one cup of low-fat yogurt provides approximately 450 mg.
- Protein - essential for both growing baby and mom. Protein needs increase during pregnancy by about 60% compared to your needs before pregnancy. It’s important to consume a variety of proteins, including beans, nuts, soy, dairy, eggs and meats or fish*.
- Vitamin D –milk is an excellent source of vitamin D and is a bone-building nutrient.
- Phosphorus - a necessary nutrient required for building bones in your growing baby and is also needed to help maintain your bone mass during this time.
- Drinking milk is hydrating! A bonus from drinking milk and eating yogurt is that these foods provide fluids to your body which are in higher demand during pregnancy to support your increased blood supply. It’s easy to get dehydrated during pregnancy and staying on top of fluids is crucial to your daily well being and energy levels.
If you are pregnant and you experience lactose intolerance or have a sensitivity to lactose, try some of these tips to help you obtain the required amount of dairy you need:
1. Choose lactose-free dairy milk which has lactase added in. Lactase is the enzyme necessary to digest lactose (the natural sugar in milk). Lactose-free dairy milk is regular cow’s milk, with an added enzyme.
2. Try the Stir It option: Mix milk with other foods to help slow the digestion of lactose and allow the body more time to digest it. Try mixing milk with cereal, blend with frozen fruit for a smoothie or drink milk with a meal.
3. Eat yogurt! Greek and regular yogurt has live and active cultures which help digest the lactose making them lactose intolerance-friendly.
3. Use an over-the-counter lactase enzyme tablet when eating dairy products. They work naturally to digest lactose inside your gut, giving you the freedom to enjoy the dairy foods you want, when you want
4. Look for natural cheeses which have minimal amounts of lactose, such as low-fat Parmesan, Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and Swiss.
Find more information on Lactose Intolerance and Dairy.
Important! Make sure that all dairy you consume during pregnancy is pasteurized. The American Academy of Pediatrics, along with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recommend choosing pasteurized milk as the safe choice to drink. Receive the goodness of milk and all of its 9 essential nutrients important for optimal health by consuming the 3 daily servings of dairy recommended by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Read more about pasteurized milk here. http://bit.ly/19Nk7nj
Some of my favorite meals and snacks for pregnancy:
- Cheese sandwich with Swiss and aged Cheddar cheese, mustard and cucumbers on whole wheat bread.
- Low-fat Greek yogurt with blueberries, slivered almonds and sprinkle of cinnamon
- Peanut butter and banana smoothie: 1/2 frozen banana, 1 Tbsp natural nut butter, 1 cup low-fat or fat-free milk, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (use low-fat or fat-free lactose-free dairy milk for a lactose intolerance-friendly smoothie).
- Chocolate strawberry milkshake: 1 cup low-fat or fat-free milk (regular or lactose-free dairy milk), 1 cup frozen organic strawberries, 2 tbsp natural style cocoa powder, 1 Tbsp sugar or sweetener of your choice.
- Celery sticks filled with pimento cheese. My Nana in North Carolina makes really great homemade pimento cheese similar to this and it’s great to keep on hand in the fridge for snacking.
*Warning: Do not consume fish high in mercury which can be toxic to the developing fetus. For more information read Mercury Levels in Fish.
Nutrition is so important during pregnancy. If you or someone you know needs assistance, go to www.fns.usda.gov/wic or your local WIC office. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program provides foods, including milk and dairy foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
*This post was written while participating in my partnership with National Dairy Council, but as always, all opinions are my own.