What is a pregnancy nutritionist?

A pregnancy nutritionist (RDN) is a specialized healthcare professional whose expertise lies in helping expecting mothers maintain optimal dietary and nutritional practices throughout their pregnancy (ideally before and after, as well).

The nutritional needs of a woman going through pregnancy are incredibly unique, and varied, depending on the woman. We, as dietitians, love to say, “every bite counts.” During pregnancy, this is true tenfold. Our goal, when working with expecting moms, revolves around safeguarding the health and well-being of both Mom and her developing baby. As prenatal RDNs, we can do this by addressing specific dietary requirements, promoting a balanced diet, and ensuring both mom and baby are getting all the nutrients they need. Nutrition plays a central role in reducing risks during pregnancy and labor. 

What can you expect when you make an appointment with a prenatal dietitian?

What is the role of a pregnancy nutritionist?

  1. Evaluation and Personalization: Throughout your pregnancy, we will constantly assess your dietary patterns, lifestyle, and any underlying health conditions (as the last one might change month-to-month). This provides the foundation for crafting a nutrition plan that is uniquely suited to your and your developing baby’s needs.
  1. Education: A key piece of our work is to empower our patients to make the best dietary choices for their pregnancy. Reading food labels, identifying specific nutrients crucial for fetal development (and to avert birth defects), and learning about foods to avoid or limit are just a few ways we work with nutrition education.
  1. Nutrient Requirements: The nutrients woman needs during pregnancy and postpartum are unique, and getting the right balance can help avert birth defects, increased iron to support heightened blood volume, and extra calcium to facilitate fetal bone development.
  1. Morning sickness and food aversions: Some women sail through pregnancy without a hitch. Others experience morning sickness, acid reflux, food aversions, and more. Getting the required nutrients and calories when everything makes you turn green can be a challenge. A prenatal RDN can provide struggling moms with strategies to navigate these challenges while ensuring that sufficient nutrient intake is sustained.

General Principles and Guidelines for Healthy Eating During Pregnancy:

What’s on your plate? Here are some basics for healthy eating, not only while expecting, but in life!

  1. Balanced Diet: Get colorful — the more colors, the more nutrients you’ll be getting. Eat in-season fruits, vegetables, and fish. Focus on clean, healthy eating, with whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Take the time to enjoy your meals, and nourish yourself and your growing baby.
  1. Adequate Caloric Intake: Eating for two? Hmmm … not really. That said, you will have different calorie needs while pregnant. As prenatal RDNs, we’ll work to help you with healthy weight gain during pregnancy. 
  1. Hydration: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! And hydrate some more. Steer clear of sugar drinks, juices, and sodas. Keep a jar of water in the fridge with your favorite fruits or lemon slices. Put on a drink alarm. And drink some more. Hydration is key to maintaining amniotic fluid levels, helping with digestion, and reducing the risk of dehydration, which can be dangerous for both Mom and baby.
  1. Supplements: As pregnancy nutritionists, we will provide you with the supplement guidance you need. 
  1. Safe Food Handling: Learn about how to reduce the probability of foodborne illnesses that could potentially jeopardize both maternal and fetal well-being. 

What are nutrition interventions for pregnancy?

As prenatal dietitians, we offer personalized diet recommendations and nutrition plans — including menu planning, supplement protocol, and treatment for gestational diabetes, morning sickness, and other pregnancy problems —  that are tailored to the unique nutritional demands of our patients. 

  1. Folate and Folic Acid: Sufficient folate intake is pivotal in averting neural tube defects in the baby. We counsel mothers to incorporate folate-rich foods such as leafy greens, legumes, and fortified cereals into their diets. We always recommend a folic acid supplement from the time before pregnancy.
  1. Iron: Pregnancy escalates the need for iron, as it plays a central role in red blood cell production. We can help our expecting mothers integrate iron-rich foods like lean meats, legumes, and fortified grains into their diet plan.
  1. Calcium: To bolster fetal bone development, mothers necessitate an augmented calcium intake. Nutritionists recommend sources such as dairy products, fortified plant-based milk alternatives, and leafy greens to meet this requirement.
  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These fats are indispensable for fetal brain and eye development. We’ll help you find ways to incorporate fatty fish (e.g., salmon), flaxseeds, walnuts, and other foods into your diet to ensure you get the nutrients you need..
  1. Protein: Adequate protein intake is essential for tissue growth in both mother and baby. We can help you understand the quantities of lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and plant-based protein sources such as tofu and legumes you need. Vegetarian and vegan moms-to-be will need to be extra mindful to get certain nutrients, and we will support them with supplement protocol, as well.
  1. Gestational Diabetes: For mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes, we can develop meal plans designed to manage blood sugar levels. This includes monitoring carbohydrate intake, selecting complex carbohydrates, and emphasizing foods rich in dietary fiber. It can be overwhelming to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but with the right dietary interventions, most women can manage their diagnosis without needing medication.
  1. Morning Sickness: Let’s be honest. Morning sickness can be morning, noon, and night, and it can also be pretty miserable. We can provide you with the strategies you need to alleviate morning sickness, including recommending small, frequent meals, steering clear of overly spicy or fatty foods, and prioritizing hydration. Severe morning sickness needs to be managed with your ObGyn. Do not get dehydrated!
  1. Food Aversions: As prenatal nutritionists, we work hand-in-hand with mothers to identify tolerable foods and fashion meal plans that revolve around those preferences. We can help make sure moms get adequate nutrition.

A prenatal dietitian nutritionist helps moms-to-be have a healthy journey for themselves and their little ones. We can provide you with personalized nutrition plans and handle those unique dietary challenges that come with pregnancy —  gestational diabetes, healthy weight gain, morning sickness, and more. More than anything, a prenatal RDN provides expecting moms with science-backed nutrition information, education, and plans, cutting through the glut of information on the web. This keeps both mom and baby safer and healthier. We can’t wait to work with you.