Why Eating Right Is So Important
By Jill Tomlin
Common sense tells us that what a woman eats during pregnancy is
important both for her health and for the health and development of her
baby. Every gram of protein, every microgram of folic acid, and every
drop of water your baby needs must come from your diet.
Every bite counts
nutrients aren't stored in the body, so the food you eat is the only
source of the things your baby needs. Your diet also supplies your body
with the fuel and nutrients you need to make the next nine months a
pleasurable experience, ease delivery, and speed your recovery after
your baby is born. That's why it's important to eat well before you
conceive and for the months that follow.
For you, eating right:
- Helps maintain a healthy weight. The best indicator of how
well your pregnancy is progressing is your weight gain. Gain enough and
you'll improve your chances of having a full-term, robust baby with a
low risk of health problems after birth.
- Helps meet your increased need for iron and prevents anemia.
Fatigue, reduced resistance to colds and infections, and even mood
swings often are the result of iron deficiency. You easily can remedy
iron deficiency with a healthful diet that includes lots of iron-rich
foods and an iron supplement.
- Provides needed energy. It takes energy to develop a
healthy baby, and that energy comes from calories -- about 300
additional calories per day above your pre-pregnancy intake.
- Speeds your recovery after delivery. Your body will
require optimum energy and nutritional resources to mend itself after
your baby is born. Good nutrition is essential for this recuperating
- Helps prevent common pregnancy problems. Fortunately,
few women experience serious complications during pregnancy, but most
women do face minor nuisances, such as heartburn, constipation,
fatigue, and mood swings. You can avoid or at least minimize all of
these problems by maintaining a good diet.
For baby, eating right:
- Reduces the risk of birth defects. One of the most common
types of birth defects -- neural-tube defects -- can be prevented in
many pregnancies when the mother consumes the optimum amount of folic
acid, a B vitamin found in dark-green leafy vegetables.
- Ensures sufficient high-quality protein intake. In a
healthful diet, meats, chicken, fish, beans, milk, and eggs supply
protein, the number-one building block for muscles, ligaments, hair,
fingernails, bones, brain tissue, blood, and other tissues in your
- Supplies calcium for bones and teeth. By the third
trimester, up to 300 mg of calcium is going to your baby each day.
Consuming 4 calcium-rich glasses of milk will supply this needed
mineral and prevent calcium from being taken from your bones.
- Helps ensure a healthy birth weight. Following a
nutritious diet and gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy
will increase your likelihood of having a healthy, robust baby.
Adequate birth weight, in turn, will reduce your baby's risk of
Reduced-fat and fat-free
dairy products not only supply calcium, but also protein, vitamin D, B
vitamins, and magnesium -- all essential for baby's bones, muscles, and