Creating a prenatal meal plan can feel intimidating. Pregnant women have unique nutritional needs ranging from increased energy intake, to preventing common deficiencies. Pregnancy symptoms include nausea and food aversions, which can make it difficult to meet nutritional needs.
Prenatal vitamins are an insurance policy, but a good diet is the foundation for good health.
Here are 5 nutrition tips to keep in mind when supporting your pregnant clients:
1. Ensure Adequate Calcium Intake
A woman’s body will prioritize the health of her baby, so during pregnancy calcium will be leached from the mother’s bones if there is not enough available for the baby. Down the road, this can lead to the development osteoporosis.
Pregnant women require 1,000mg of calcium per day to keep their own bones healthy while also supporting their fetus. Some of this will be provided by a good prenatal vitamin, but food must provide the rest.
- Fortified non-dairy milk: 300mg per cup
- Chia seeds: 230mg per 3 tablespoons
- Dairy yogurt: about 250mg per cup
- Broccoli: 180mg per cup
- Tahini: 130mg per 2 tablespoons
- Kale and collard greens: 80mg per cup
- Chickpeas: 80mg per cup
2. Boost Iron Intake
Iron requirements during pregnancy are the highest they will be at any point during the lifecycle. It can be hard to meet iron needs with diet alone, so low iron is one of the most common concerns during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should get 27mg of iron per day. Prenatal vitamins provide plenty of iron, but a prenatal meal plan should also prioritize this important mineral. Since heme iron has higher bioavailability than non-heme iron, a combination of both plant and animal based foods can help ensure proper absorption.
- Beef: 4mg per 4 ounces
- Black beans: about 4mg per cup
- Pumpkin seeds: 5mg per ¼ cup
- Chickpeas: 5mg per cup
- Oats: 4mg per ½ cup
- Chia seeds: 3mg per 3 tablespoons
3. Optimize Omega-3s
Healthy development of the brain and nervous system tissue requires adequate intake of the right kinds of fats. Research has shown DHA from cold-water fish to be particularly beneficial. ALA from plant-based sources can also be converted into DHA as long as they are consumed in sufficient amounts.
In addition to prenatal vitamins, you might suggest that your client take a DHA supplement from fish or algae oil.
Food Sources of Omega-3s:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
4. Emphasize Protein
Protein is essential for building new cells during pregnancy. It also helps maintain stable blood sugar, which can reduce nausea caused by low blood sugar.
Aim for a little more than the minimum recommended 0.4 grams per pound of body weight. Protein needs vary, so encourage your client to tune into their body and find the amount that makes them feel their best.
Since many (but not all) women experience food aversions to meat, including both plant and animal based protein sources can help to ensure needs are met.
Animal Protein Sources:
- Red meats
- Dairy products
Plant Protein Sources:
- Whole grains
5. Include Plenty of Fibre
Constipation and hemorrhoids are common complaints during pregnancy, so meeting fibre needs is particularly important during this time.
Luckily, many of the foods high in calcium, iron, omega-3s and protein are also high in fibre. Packing your client’s prenatal meal plan full of plant-based foods should ensure they meet their minimum requirement of 25g fibre per day.
Adding a couple tablespoons of ground flax seed can be a great way to get fibre and boost omega-3 consumption. Encourage your clients to add flax to smoothies, or sprinkled over oatmeal.
Other considerations and tips for prenatal meal planning:
- Preventing nausea: Schedule meals every 3 hours and always include a protein source to prevent low blood sugar.
- Meet folic acid needs: Women are advised to take a folic acid supplement before and during pregnancy. Leafy greens, legumes, oranges, and cruciferous veggies are also great sources of folate.
- Morning sickness: Ginger tea, peppermint tea, and bland foods like dry toast or crackers may be helpful when morning sickness hits.
- Vitamin D: Ensure your client is taking a vitamin D supplement, consuming fortified foods, or vitamin D-containing foods like egg yolks, sardines and wild salmon. Food sources of vitamin D may not be as reliable as a supplement.
To simplify prenatal meal planning for clients, That Clean Life for Business members now have access to a done-for-you Prenatal Diet that incorporates all the essential nutrients for pregnancy in a variety of fun, simple recipes with easy-to-follow instructions.
Our done-for-you Prenatal Diet includes:
- 7 days of high-nutrient, regularly scheduled meals and snacks.
- An itemized grocery list.
- A prep guide to help your clients stay organized and on-track.
- Plenty of protein, fibre, and micronutrients.
- Easily scalable recipes to meet increased caloric needs after the first trimester.
- Free E-book: An Introduction to Meal Planning for Wellness Professionals
- How to Build a Hormone Balancing Meal Plan for Women
- Are You Overwhelming Your Clients? 5 Mistakes Nutritionists Make and How to Overcome Them