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Why All Calories Aren't Equal

Here's a pop quiz: Your doctor suggests that you consume about 400 calories at breakfast. Which would you choose? Option one is a 1-cup serving of raisin bran, a cup of skim milk, and a glass of orange juice. Option two is a frosted chocolate-fudge toaster pastry, a handful of chocolate candies, and a can of soda. Both have about 400 calories, but you don't have to be a dietitian to know that raisin bran makes more sense.

It's a basic fact that not all calories are equal. For the same number of calories, you can have a nutrition-packed meal or a nutritionally bankrupt meal. You'll gain the same amount of weight eating 2,500 calories a day in nutritious foods as you would with 2,500 calories a day of junk food. The difference is that if you eat a lot of junk food, you'll deprive yourself and your baby of important nutrients.

Does this mean that every meal has to be perfect and that you can never splurge? No, but for the health of your baby, make an effort to choose more good foods than bad ones.

Think of your calories like money: Each day you're given a certain number to spend. If you spend most of them wisely on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats and fish, you'll be able to "afford" a treat such as ice cream or candy.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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