03 Feb Dairy’s Role in Nourishing Pregnant and Lactating Women: What Expecting Parents Should Know
The post was sponsored by National Dairy Council. All thoughts are my own.
For the first time in over 40 years, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans included recommendations for pregnant and lactating women, along with children ages 0 to 23 months. The main theme of the latest set of guidelines jointly released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is “Every Bite Counts.” Whether as a child, older adult, or pregnant woman — every bite counts through every stage of life. Here’s a look into the latest guidelines for pregnant and lactating women, with a focus on milk and dairy foods.
Good Nutrition Begins During Pregnancy
Healthy eating is important for mom during pregnancy, as how an expectant mother eats impacts the health of the baby. Following a healthy eating pattern is important during this life stage because increased calorie and nutrient needs are needed to support the growth and development of the baby and to also help maintain the mom’s health. Eating a healthy diet before and during pregnancy and lactation can ultimately affect health outcomes for both the baby and mom in the future. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommends that 85-percent of calories in your daily diet come from nutrient-dense foods that come from fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, protein foods, and oils. This includes three daily servings of dairy foods for those 9 years of age and older. The remaining 15-percent of calories can come from saturated fat (no more than 10%) and added sugars (no more than 10%). For most people, this means there is room for between 250 to 350 calories per day from these non-nutrient dense sources. For example, use 2% or whole milk in your morning cup of coffee or add a touch of honey to your afternoon yogurt snack.
Under Consumed Nutrients During Pregnancy and Lactation and Dairy Foods
Certain nutrients found in milk and dairy foods are needed during pregnancy and lactation. Below is an overview of six nutrients that tend to be under consumed during pregnancy and lactation that are found in milk and dairy products.
Iodine: Iodine needs significantly increase during pregnancy and lactation. This mineral is important during pregnancy for neurocognitive development of the fetus. A lack of iodine during pregnancy has also been linked to lower childhood IQ. Although iodine levels are generally adequate in women who can get pregnant, women who do not regularly eat dairy products, eggs, seafood, or use iodized table salt may not take in enough to meet the needs during pregnancy and lactation. Prenatal vitamins do not have adequate iodine to meet needs. If a woman is pregnant or lactating and does not use table salt, they should not be encouraged to do so. However, if they do use table salt then iodized table salt should be recommended (note: sea salt does not normally contain iodine, unless fortified). In addition, milk and yogurt are good sources of iodine and meeting the recommended servings of dairy products each day can contribute to iodine needs. The primary source for iodine is food and beverages, but if you are concerned about your iodine needs, speaks to a registered dietitian (RD) or your healthcare provider.
Choline: During pregnancy and lactation choline needs also increase. Getting enough choline during pregnancy and lactation helps to replenish mom’s stores and support the growth and development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Choline can be found in a variety of foods like milk and dairy, eggs, meats, some seafood, beans, peas, and lentils. One serving of milk provides 8% of the daily value for choline. Many prenatal vitamins do not have adequate choline to meet needs. The primary source for choline is food and beverages, but if you are concerned about your choline needs, speaks to a registered dietitian (RD) or your healthcare provider.
Vitamin B12: This vitamin is needed in higher amounts during pregnancy and lactation. A lack of vitamin B12 during pregnancy can lead to permanent neurological damage in the baby. As vitamin B12 is only found in animal sources like milk and dairy foods, meats, poultry, eggs, and fish, a pregnant or lactating woman who is vegetarian or vegan may lack vitamin B12. Women following a vegetarian diet should meet the recommended daily servings of milk and dairy foods to help meet vitamin B12 needs as milk and dairy foods are an excellent source of the vitamin. If you’re concerned about vitamin B12, speak to your healthcare provider.
Other nutrients of concern: Milk and dairy products also provide calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, which are under consumed nutrients by all Americans, including pregnant and lactating women. Consuming the recommended daily amount of milk and dairy foods can help close the gap for these nutrients of concern.
Dairy-Licious Recipes for Pregnant and Lactating Women
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines speak about the meals you eat dairy verses focusing on specific nutrients. Here are 5 dishes a woman who is pregnant or lactating can include in their healthy eating plan.
Whip up this smoothie in 5 minutes (or less!). Opt for non-fat or low-fat milk, whenever possible. Milk provides a variety of nutrients needed during pregnancy including iodine, (8% DV), vitamin B12, calcium, potassium (8% DV), and vitamin D.
Enjoy this 3-ingredient chia pudding for breakfast, as a snack, or even dessert. The secret ingredient: chocolate milk! Opt for reduced-fat or fat-free, whenever possible. Chocolate milk provides a variety of nutrients needed during pregnancy including iodine, choline (8% DV), vitamin B12, calcium, potassium (8% DV), and vitamin D.
During pregnancy and lactation, you may find yourself short on time. This 3-ingredient mac and cheese uses evaporated milk (opt for skim or reduced-fat) and cheddar cheese (opt for reduced-fat). It’s a double win in the dairy nutrition department, plus you can easily stir in veggies like broccoli or cauliflower too!
Toss strawberries and kiwi in orange juice and then layer it with creamy Greek yogurt and crunchy almonds. There are lots of good-for-you nutrients not only from the Greek yogurt, but also from the fruit and nuts.
This dairy-rich meal uses Greek yogurt in the sauce and in the creamed spinach. It’s a nice, savory way to take in those important nutrients needed during pregnancy and lactation.