The Art of Eating for Two
By Jill Tomlin
If you focus on a variety of nutrition-packed foods at mealtime,
you'll be assured of consuming adequate calories. Calorie intake
determines weight gain, which is one of the most important signs of how
your pregnancy is progressing. If you don't eat enough, your baby will
be robbed of calories and nutrients, possibly resulting in premature
delivery, low birth weight, or higher incidence of health problems.
Eating sufficient nutritious foods to gain at least 25 pounds during
pregnancy will improve your chances of having a full-term,
normal-weight, healthy baby.
Does that mean you can eat all
you want? Not quite. Your daily energy needs during the first trimester
are the same as they were before pregnancy (approximately 2,200
calories -- but this can be higher or lower depending on your height,
weight, and activity level), and they increase by only 100 to 300
calories per day during the second and third trimesters, for a total of
2,300 to 2,500 calories. (Keep in mind that calorie requirements vary
greatly from one pregnant women to another and are higher if you
exercise.) Although calorie requirements increase only slightly, your
need for vitamins and minerals is at an all-time high. That means every
bite must be chock-full of nutrients.
A Variety of Wholesome Foods
Fortunately, giving your baby the best combination of nutrients is a
simple matter of eating a variety of wholesome foods based on the Food
- 6 or more daily servings of grains. Breads, pasta, rice, and other
grain products provide B vitamins. If they're whole grains, they also
provide trace minerals, such as chromium, iron and selenium, and they
add fiber to help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and other
inconveniences of pregnancy.
- 5 to 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. These fresh,
canned or frozen foods supply beta carotene, vitamin C and folic acid.
All of these nutrients are essential for your health and the growth and
health of your developing baby.
- 3 to 4 daily servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products.
Milk and other dairy products supply protein, calcium, vitamin D,
vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and magnesium -- nutrients essential for normal
bone, muscle, and nerve function.
- 3 daily servings of extra-lean meats or other protein sources.
Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish and cooked dried beans and
peas provide protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B12,
and other B vitamins -- nutrients necessary for blood, muscle, and
When, Where, and How?
When, where, and how much you eat is up to you, and often is governed
by necessity. Ideally, you should spread your daily food intake among
several small meals and snacks. However, your pregnant body might have
other ideas, so go with the flow. You might choose to eat a snack for
breakfast and have a large evening meal during the first trimester if
you struggle with morning sickness; then you might prefer a larger
breakfast and a light evening meal in the last trimester when heartburn
is more of a problem.
In the past, pregnant women were warned to limit their salt intake to
manage their weight gain and prevent swelling and high blood pressure.
Not anymore. Pregnant women need some salt in their diets to maintain
their expanding blood volume, which increases by up to 50 percent. Your
cells also hold more water during pregnancy, so a little bit of
swelling is normal starting in the second trimester and especially in
the last few weeks of pregnancy. This mild fluid retention is unrelated
to salt intake and shouldn't be treated by restricting salt or taking
diuretic medications (also called water pills) without your doctor's
approval. So unless you're advised otherwise by your physician,
continue to salt your foods to taste.
Just For Mom
While you're pregnant, you should avoid alcohol, tobacco, and
medications (unless prescribed and supervised by a physician). Alcohol
can cause permanent physical and mental birth defects. Since no safe
limit has been established for alcohol consumption, abstinence is a
pregnant woman's best bet.