Healthy Eating for a Healthy Pregnancy

Featured Speaker

Stacie Leahy, RD

Stacie Leahy, RD

About this Podcast

About This Podcast

Being pregnant can be such an amazing time in a womens life. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout your pregnancy is key for both baby and mother. Important steps to a healthy pregnancy include eating a balanced diet; gaining the right amount of weight; and keeping physically active.

You’re eating for two now; does that mean double the portions? There are foods that should to be avoided and others that are important for mom and baby. And then there are the cravings!

Listen as Stacie Leahy, RD gives great advice about what to eat so mom and baby can stay healthy throughout the pregnancy.



Melanie Cole (Host):  Being pregnant can be such an amazing time in a woman's life and maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout your pregnancy is key for both baby and mom. Important steps to a healthy pregnancy can include eating a balanced diet, gaining the right amount of weight and keeping physically active. My guest today is Stacy Leahy. She's a registered dietitian with Aspirus Medford Clinic. Welcome to the show, Stacy. So, what do you tell women who are planning to become pregnant or who are newly pregnant about the most important things they should look to in their dietary needs?

Stacy Leahy (Guest):  The most important thing is to just eat a balanced healthy diet overall including eating low fat or fat free dairy products such as milk and yogurt; including a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet; including a whole grain such as whole wheat bread and brown rice, those types of things; eating more leaner meats and all that. Fish is kind of a question for a lot of pregnant women but including fish in their diet is also healthy for them because it helps in developing the baby's brain because it has those Omega 3s in there. They should avoid some of the fish which are high in mercury such as shark and swordfish but fish such as tuna is always a good option for them to go towards. It's also important for them to take their prenatal vitamins from their doctor and to avoid a few things. You can eat a pretty healthy diet but there are a few things you are asked to avoid such as alcohol and tobacco but also to limit their caffeine intake. It's been shown that one to two cups of coffee is healthy for the babies, so you don't have to cut your coffee out completely. It's good to not eat lunch meat, the cold lunch meat or cold hot dogs. If you want to eat those, you want to maybe microwave them for a minute, just get out any type of bacteria that's in there. If you are taking some sort of herbal remedy or herbal supplement, it's good to talk to your doctor and ask he or she if it's good to continue to take that supplement.

Melanie:  When women hear the key nutrients and they know folic acid is pretty common but we hear about iron and calcium for pregnancy health and dietary needs. Where would we find those things food wise?

Stacy:  Food wise, for calcium the dairy products are always a good source to go to. If you are more lactose intolerant you can also get calcium from dark, leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach. Also, taking your prenatal vitamin will give you some of that calcium that you need. The folic acid, again, you're prenatal vitamin is very important for getting that folic acid. You can also get it from fortified cereals. A lot of cereals that are made today are fortified with iron and folic acid, so you don't really have to start to chew hard for them but it's good to get those grains in your diet to get that folic acid. Same with iron. It's good to get those from those fortified cereals. Meat is also very important. You can get a lot of iron from the meat. If you're not really a big meat eater, you can even turn to maybe beans as a good source of protein and iron, to try to get those in your diet. Like I said, it's also important to take that prenatal vitamin, too, to get those sources.

Melanie:  When women ask you how much weight should they be gaining and how does their food interact with that weight? Maybe they are afraid of eating too much fat for gaining too much weight. What do you tell them about things like healthy fats and weight gain during pregnancy?

Stacy:  As far as weight gain goes, if you are at a normal weight, like if you want to calculate your BMI, it would be between 18.9 and 24.9. You'll gain about 25-35 pounds throughout your whole pregnancy. If you're more on the overweight or obese side, you would want to gain anywhere between 10-20 pounds. Your doctor, when you are more obese may recommend you not gaining any weight and just focus on eating a healthy diet. During the first trimester, you really don't gain a lot of weight because your baby is very small but then, during the second and third trimester is when you really start gaining the weight. It's usually a normal weight it's about 4 pounds a month. As far as gaining it healthily, to just maybe add some healthy snacks throughout the day. You really only need 300-500 extra calories. You don't want to double your portions because you are eating for two but your baby is very small, so you really only need those extra 300-500 calories. The examples of getting some extra calories in your diet is maybe eating half the sandwich as a snack or a piece of fruit with some protein such as some almonds, some string cheese. Yogurt is a really good snack to try to get in your diet. It's good to just add those extra snacks and also when you are pregnant, you do want to maybe eat smaller meals throughout the day because your stomach is getting smaller and you're not able to fit in as much as you used to at one time. Also, if you're feeling more nauseous throughout your pregnancy, eating those small meals throughout the day will help with that nausea as well.

Melanie:  I'm glad that you mentioned that you're not necessarily eating for two because that's been the myth that's been propagated for a very long time and you also spoke about certain foods to avoid. Can you expand on that a little bit, Stacy, like sushi is pretty popular right now and you did mention caffeine and alcohol, but is there anything else besides sushi and that sort of thing that you want to make sure that people realize that there is a little bit of a question about eating?

Stacy:  Yes, like you said, you want to bit avoid like the raw fish because of the mercury in it and also more of the raw foods are maybe higher in bacteria which can lead to you developing a sickness which can be detrimental to you and to your baby. So, you want to make sure your food is cooked like for instance if you want to eat a steak you want to make sure it's more well-cooked. I was talking about more of the lunch meat and the hot dogs and other types of deli meat you want to make sure that those are more cooked because of the risk of getting listeria. Also, you don't want to drink any type of unpasteurized milk or softer cheeses because those are potentially higher in bacteria. Another thing, as I know one thing that I have craved is that raw cookie dough but you really don't want to eat raw cookie dough because you have the raw eggs in there which can cause salmonella or some other type of sickness which can be hard on you and your baby.

Melanie:  What about cravings because there's been myths going around for years that if you're craving certain foods that contain iron that your iron deficient or pickles and ice cream and we've heard so many for so many years. What do we do about those cravings? Do you give in to them? Do you try and make healthier choices based on those cravings which may not satisfy them anyway? What are you supposed to do about those?

Stacy:  With the cravings, it's still kind of a mystery of why we have those during pregnancy. One theory is that your hormones are stronger, your sense of smell is stronger, so then you have these craving for certain foods and like you said it, it  may be because you're lacking a nutrient such as if you are craving pickles, you might be lacking sodium. If you are cravings French fries or potato chips, you might be lacking potassium. If you're craving ice cream, you might be lacking calcium in your diet. One thing that you should do if you are craving these types of foods is to try to choose a healthier option like, for instance, if you're craving potato chips, then try to find maybe a lighter baked chip or maybe you're just craving that salty crunchy feeling and then maybe you could try eating more of an air-popped popcorn which should be healthier and higher in fiber. If you're craving ice cream, maybe try a low fat yogurt just to try to satisfy that craving. But, one thing that you can do to prevent cravings is to eat more of a balanced diet, like I was saying before, because if you're eating more of a balanced diet and you're including all the food groups, you're likely not to have as many as of these cravings because you're already getting all of these nutrients in your diet. One thing to consider is if you are craving things that aren't food, such as dirt clay or ice that is a condition called pica that some pregnant women run into and that might be because you are iron deficient or zinc deficient, then it's important to talk to your doctor because you're eating those types of foods you're at risk for lead poisoning and different sicknesses for your baby. So, you want to make sure that you get that checked out right away.

Melanie:  What great advice and such a good point. Can you wrap it up for us, Stacy, with your best advice that you tell women every single day that are newly pregnant and going through their pregnancies about eating a healthy diet and maintaining that optimal weight.

Stacy:  I always tell pregnant women to just eat healthy. Include those low fat calcium products and dairy products in your diet. Include fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to get vegetables into your diet and into your lunch and supper meals; eating more of the whole grains; eating more of the leaner proteins. If you eat more of these healthier types of food and try to stay away from more of the high fat, high sugar items, it will help to keep you healthy and also to help maintain your weight and not cause too much extra additional weight gain during pregnancy because you do want to gain weight. You don't want focus too much on your weight gain but the more you gain during your pregnancy, the more you have to lose. So, you just have to watch how much you're eating and then also it's important to take that prenatal vitamin and avoid some of those other things that I was talking about such as the raw meats, the raw fish, the tobacco and alcohol, and too much caffeine in your diet.

Melanie:  Thank you so much, Stacy, for being with us today. You're listening to Aspirus Health Talk. For more information you can go to That's This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.