Your Baby Today

Pregnancy

The Art of Eating for Two

The Art of Eating for Two

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 Guide Pyramid.

  • 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 nerve development.

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.

Good-Eating Tip
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.

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About The Author

Topeka, Kansas native Jill Tomlin writes about health issues for Your Baby Today. Her work appears in national publications.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.


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