Nutrition

Eating for Two

Eating healthy foods is more important now than ever! You need more protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid than you did before pregnancy. You also need more calories. But "eating for two" doesn't mean eating twice as much. Rather, it means that the foods you eat are the main source of nutrients for your baby. Sensible, balanced meals combined with regular physical fitness is still the best recipe for good health during your pregnancy.

Weight Gain

The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your body mass index (BMI) before you became pregnant. The Institute of Medicine provides these guidelines:

  • If you were at a normal weight before pregnancy, you should gain about 25 to 30 pounds.
  • If you were underweight before pregnancy, you should gain between 28 and 40 pounds.
  • If you were overweight before pregnancy, you should gain between 15 and 25 pounds.
  • If you were obese before pregnancy, you should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.

Check with your doctor to find out how much weight gain during pregnancy is healthy for you.

You should gain weight gradually during your pregnancy, with most of the weight gained in the last trimester. Generally, doctors suggest women gain weight at the following rate:

  • 2 to 4 pounds total during the first trimester
  • 3 to 4 pounds per month for the second and third trimesters

Where does the added weight go?

  • Baby 6 to 8 pounds
  • Placenta 1 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid 2 pounds
  • Uterus growth 2 pounds
  • Breast growth 2 pounds
  • Your blood and body fluids 8 pounds
  • Your body's protein and fat 7 pounds

Recent research shows that women who gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy and who fail to lose this weight within six months after giving birth are at much higher risk of being obese nearly 10 years later. Findings from another large study suggest that gaining more weight than the recommended amount during pregnancy may raise your child's odds of being overweight in the future. If you find that you are gaining weight too quickly, try to cut back on foods with added sugars and solid fats. If you are not gaining enough weight, you can eat a little more from each food group.

Calorie Needs

Your calorie needs will depend on your weight gain goals. Most women need 300 calories a day more during at least the last six months of pregnancy than they do pre-pregnancy. Keep in mind that not all calories are equal. Your baby needs healthy foods that are packed with nutrients - not "empty calories" such as those found in soft drinks, candies, and desserts.

Although you want to be careful not to eat more than you need for a healthy pregnancy, make sure not to restrict your diet during pregnancy either. If you don't get the calories you need, your baby might not get the right amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Low-calorie diets can break down a pregnant woman's stored fat. This can cause your body to make substances called ketones. Ketones can be found in the mother's blood and urine and are a sign of starvation. Constant production of ketones can result in a child with mental deficiencies.

Foods Good for Mom and Baby

A pregnant woman needs more of many important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than she did before pregnancy. Making healthy food choices every day will help you give your baby what he or she needs to develop. Here are some foods to choose often:

  • Grains fortified, cooked or ready-to-eat cereals; wheat germ
  • Vegetables carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, cooked greens, winter squash, tomatoes, red pepper
  • Fruits cantaloupe, honeydew melon, mangoes, prunes or prune juice, bananas, apricots, oranges or orange juice, grapefruit, avocado
  • Dairy nonfat or low-fat yogurt; nonfat milk (skim milk); low-fat milk (1 percent milk)
  • Meat and beans cooked beans and peas; nuts and seeds; lean beef, lamb, and pork; shrimp, clams, oysters, and crab; cod, salmon, polluck, and catfish

Food Safety

Most foods are safe for pregnant women and their babies. But you will need to use caution or avoid eating certain foods. Follow these guidelines:

  • Clean, handle, cook, and chill food properly to prevent foodborne illness, including listeria and toxoplasmosis.
  • Wash hands with soap after touching soil or raw meat.
  • Keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood from touching other foods or surfaces.
  • Cook meat completely.
  • Wash produce before eating.
  • Wash cooking utensils with hot, soapy water.

Do Not Eat:

  • Refrigerated smoked seafood like whitefish, salmon, and mackerel
  • Hot dogs or deli meats unless steaming hot
  • Refrigerated meat spreads
  • Unpasteurized milk or juices
  • Store-made salads, such as chicken, egg, or tuna salad
  • Unpasteurized soft cheeses, such as unpasteurized feta, Brie, queso blanco, queso fresco, and blue cheeses
  • Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tile fish (also called golden or white snapper); these fish have high levels of mercury.
  • More than 6 ounces per week of white (albacore) tuna
  • Herbs and plants used as medicines without your doctor's okay. The safety of herbal and plant therapies isn't always known. Some herbs and plants might be harmful during pregnancy, such as bitter melon (karela), noni juice, and unripe papaya.
  • Herbs and plants used as medicines without your doctor's okay. The safety of herbal and plant therapies isn't always known. Some herbs and plants might be harmful during pregnancy, such as bitter melon (karela), noni juice, and unripe papaya.

Don't Forget Fluids

All of your body's systems need water. When you are pregnant, your body needs even more water to stay hydrated and support the life inside you. Water also helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, excessive swelling, and urinary tract or bladder infections. Not getting enough water can lead to premature or early labor.

Your body gets the water it needs through the fluids you drink and the foods you eat. How much fluid you need to drink each day depends on many factors, such as your activity level, the weather, and your size. Your body needs more fluids when it is hot and when you are physically active. It also needs more water if you have a fever or if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups of fluids daily. Water, juices, coffee, tea, and soft drinks all count toward your fluid needs. But keep in mind that some beverages are high in sugar and "empty" calories. A good way to tell if your fluid intake is okay is if your urine is pale yellow or colorless and you rarely feel thirsty. Thirst is a sign that your body is on its way to dehydration. Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink.

Alcohol

There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can drink while pregnant. When you are pregnant and you drink beer, wine, hard liquor, or other alcoholic beverages, alcohol gets into your blood. The alcohol in your blood gets into your baby's body through the umbilical cord. Alcohol can slow down the baby's growth, affect the baby's brain, and cause birth defects.

Caffeine

Moderate amounts of caffeine appear to be safe during pregnancy. Moderate means less than 200 mg of caffeine per day, which is the amount in about 12 ounces of coffee. Most caffeinated teas and soft drinks have much less caffeine. Some studies have shown a link between higher amounts of caffeine and miscarriage and preterm birth. But there is no solid proof that caffeine causes these problems. The effects of too much caffeine are unclear. Ask your doctor whether drinking a limited amount of caffeine is okay for you

Cravings

Many women have strong desires for specific foods during pregnancy. The desire for "pickles and ice cream" and other cravings might be caused by changes in nutritional needs during pregnancy. The fetus needs nourishment. And a woman's body absorbs and processes nutrients differently while pregnant. These changes help ensure normal development of the baby and fill the demands of breastfeeding once the baby is born.

Some women crave nonfood items such as clay, ice, laundry starch, or cornstarch. A desire to eat nonfood items is called pica (PYE-KUH). Eating nonfood items can be harmful to your pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have these urges.

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