Prenatal Nutrition

Pregnancy Nutrition, let’s get down to what you really need to cut out and all those extra vitamins you need during pregnancy. 

I recently interviewed Makayla and Cassandra, they are the founders of Mamas Maternal Health, a Virtual Nutrition Counseling business specializing in pregnancy and lactation helping both you and your child to achieve maximum health during this critical time period. You can find the full interview below or check out the episode page here: Episode 45

Cassandra is a registered dietician and lactation counselor who loves all things pregnancy and nutrition related. Makayla is currently residing in NYC and is a registered dietitian and lactation counselor and the two of them are the best of friends. 

Okay, so I could talk about pregnancy all day every day. It’s addicting! As odd as it is to say there is just so much to love about it! So let’s dive into it!

Eating healthy during your pregnancy truly sets the foundation for yourself but also for the baby for the rest of their lives. It will impact them and potentially even future generations. A lot of dietitians do weight loss, and while these ladies respect that and want people to be their best selves, when it comes to Maternal Health it’s not just one person you’re helping. You have a whole other being and it’s a game changer.

Foods to Avoid during pregnancy:

You should always avoid alcohol! Be sure to limit caffeine intake, and avoid any high mercury fish (which are mostly predatory fish) , sharks, swordfish, marlin, king mackerel. High levels of  mercury can affect babies’ brain development. 

You also want to be careful with deli meat and heat it before eating to avoid listeria contamination. They recommend heating the deli meat on each side to kill any potential listeria. You also want to avoid raw sushi and raw eggs.

Another thing most wouldn’t consider is to make sure and wash your veggies before eating them, those pesticides can affect more than you’d realize.

They recommend avoiding raw milk, and initially my thought was what do you mean raw milk, from the store? The type of milk that you should be careful with is the unpasteurized milk, straight from the cow. Which means you also need to take caution with soft cheeses like Ricotta and Brie.

 If you are craving cookie dough try to find a recipe with no raw egg, pinterest is great here.  You’ll find many options that will be okay for you during pregnancy.

Foods/Vitamins/Nutrients that you need more of during pregnancy:

Vitamin D – Pregnant women need 600 IU of vitamin D a day

You can get it from dairy products, mushrooms, eggs, salmon, and sardines. Sardines are JAM PACKED with healthy fats and Vitamin D.

Folate – You need 600 mg a day during pregnancy

Folate helps aid in spinal development. Folate is most common in leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beans, peas, lentils and some nuts and seeds. Fortified grains have some folate as well. Spinach can be hidden really well in foods, so although it can be hard to consume those necessary things when you don’t love leafy greens there are more ways than you’d realize to hide and mix it into things instead of eating a salad. Try a smoothie with some spinach blended in.

Difference in folate and folic acid

Folate is from food form, folic acid is from prenatal vitamins. Some women are unable to digest folic acid, for those women it is very important to understand what foods you need to be eating to get the appropriate amount of folate.

Folate is the natural form of folic acid. Bodies are more able to digest the folate.

Prenatal vitamins are great but it is important to get all the vitamins you can naturally from your food because it’s easier for your body to digest because it’s more bio available.

It’s great to be aware of the bioavailability of vitamins!

Iron – 27mg is needed daily during pregnancy

Iron deficiency doesn’t tend to be talked about near enough in women, let alone women in pregnancy. Women tend to lose a lot of iron through their menstrual cycles, but during pregnancy it is even more important because you’re growing a person! The most common foods to get iron from include meat (chicken, beef, pork), eggs, beans, peas like soybeans and lentils, pistachios, spinach, fortified cereals, and sardines.

Vitamin C rich foods like citrus increase the absorption of iron, so be sure to eat this iron rich foods with Vitamin C rich foods to help with the absorption!

During the time of growth spurts your body prioritizes iron to your red blood cells, instead of your brain. So not only during growth spurts for children but also while pregnant and the baby is growing in utero, if there is not enough iron being consumed and absorbed by the mother their body will prioritize that iron to go to their red blood cells instead of their brain which can cause a lot of cognitive development issues that can affect them all the way up to early adulthood. 

Magnesium – Expecting mothers need 350 mg a day, that’s an increase from 310 mg a day before pregnancy

You can get your magnesium from superfoods like avocado,  chia seeds, bananas, kale, legumes, dark leafy greens, almonds, tofu, seeds, whole grain and salmon.

Magnesium is good for muscle relaxation. If you suffer from migraines and headaches and even tight muscles/contractions magnesium is a great way to treat these things over the counter without a prescription.  

Fun fact, I actually had awful charlie horses during my pregnancy and was eating bananas like crazy. When I talked to my OB he suggested upping my magnesium intake to help with the cramps. I had no clue. I assumed I needed more potassium. 

If you struggle with migraines magnesium is a GREAT vitamin to help improve those issues.

Choline – 400 mg a day is recommended for expecting mothers

 Choline is great for overall development of the baby that is sometimes forgotten. You can get it from meat sources like beef liver, animal protein, fish, you can also get it from eggs, nuts, cauliflower, broccoli, and of course other leafy greens, dairy, and whole grain.Liver and again sardines are great for colein and so are leafy greens. 

Calcium – 1000 mg during pregnancy

Dairy isn’t always feasible for people due to intolerances, or just not loving milk in general. Some of the more common foods containing calcium are milk, cheese and yogurt. However there are also some less common foods too that provide a great source of calcium that is needed as well. You can get calcium from fortified orange juice, fortified milk alternatives, like almond, soy, or cashew milk, and leafy greens also provide a great addition to those foods high in calcium.

Vitamin B122.2 mcg a day while pregnant, which is up from 2.0 mcg a day prior to pregnancy

B12’s are important during pregnancy for energy especially while going through all those different hormonal changes. You can get B12 from almost any animal product, including, meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. Plant based options for B12 include fortified plant milk, fortified cereals, and nutritional yeast.

Iodine paired with selenium- 220 mg a day (up from 150 mg when not pregnant)

Thyroid dysfunction has become so common, it’s important to have your iodine. Sea food, as long as you make sure it is cooked and lower mercury, seaweed, and iodized salt. You also need 50 mg of selenium which is found in Brazil nuts (be sure not to eat more than a few nuts per day due to their high amounts of selenium, fish and grains. Paired together these vitamins help with thyroid function.

If you hate seafood, seaweed flakes are a great way to get those nutrients without eating “seafood”. Try them sprinkled on a salad.

Omega 3s (DHA & EPA)- 200 mg a day of DHA and 200 mg a day of EPA while pregnant

These can be found in a variety of foods and oils. Avocados, some vegetable oils, seeds, olive oil, and salmon.  Nutrient packed seeds are great like chia, and flax seeds, beans like edamame, kidney beans and seaweed.

DHA is important for brain development, EPA is more for cardiovascular health.

It depends on your prenatals and whether or not they have those DHA and EPA. If you don’t get a lot of healthy fats in your meals then you definitely need to seek out a prenatal that has Omega 3’s (DHA) listed plainly to make sure you’re getting what you need during pregnancy.

How to handle pregnancy cravings?

You deserve to have food that makes you happy when you’re pregnant! If you’re craving certain things, typically it’s because you’re needing certain nutrients! Say you’re really wanting Mcdonalds burger and fries. Try making them at home because then it’s a little healthier of a meal for you, but you’re still getting those nutrients your body is craving like carbohydrates and iron!

If you crave ice, that’s a telltale sign of an iron deficiency. That’s typically a good sign to talk to your doctor and see if you’re needing to be tested for an iron deficiency.

Cravings are a good way of your body telling you the nutrients and vitamins that you’re needing more of during pregnancy.

Odd cravings

When you crave very unique things, like dirt, or ice cubes. Talk to your doctor to see if something is going on, and  if you’ve got an off level of nutrients.

It can be easy to focus on the scale or our body changes during pregnancy, but really try to focus on LOVING yourself and your body. 

Spinach is WONDERFUL, but loving yourself and your baby are the most important.

Product recommendation and advice from the experts!

Although these are all very important vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, there are many more that play equally important roles in both your health, as well as your baby’s development.

We recommend you consume a variety of nutrients and colors during your meals to create a balanced diet. Aim for a balanced plate with at least three colors, whole grains, and proteins. This will ensure that you are nourishing yourself the best that you can. All nutrients are important during this time and you want a little of everything—besides the pregnancy nutritional no-no’s we mentioned initially.

Makayla recommends making a community for yourself! You want people that will love you and support you and be your rock! Having wonderful women to support you is amazing and priceless compared to just one item.

Cassie recommends doing your research on breastfeeding. Try to be as prepared as you can going into it because it can be difficult, and if you go into it prepared it can make it much easier overall. 

If you want to find and follow Cassie and Makayla, find them here at they’re also on facebook, instagram, and tik tok.


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