Are you a serial breakfast skipper? Been known to nosh chips for lunch? Now is the perfect time to redeem yourself: When you're pregnant, whipping less-than-stellar eating habits into shape should be one of your first goals. After all, the foods and drinks you take in every day directly impact your growing baby, says Elizabeth M. Ward, R.D., author of Pregnancy Nutrition: Good Health for You and Your Baby (John Wiley). And developing sound eating patterns now can mean a healthier child-not to mention a healthier you-for years to come. In other words, pregnancy is not the ice-cream-free-for-all it's often depicted as being. Sure, you need extra food when you're pregnant-and, oh, yes, you'll most likely experience cravings-but eating a balanced diet now is more important than ever.
So what can you expect? Some days you'll feel ravenous-and on others, you may not want to nibble anything but saltines. And, of course, you can expect to gain weight. If you started your pregnancy at a healthy weight, your goal gain will be roughly 25-35 pounds. Underweight women should gain 28-40 pounds, and overweight women only 15-25. If you're carrying twins, you'll obviously gain more: about 35-45 pounds total.
Though weight gain is absolutely necessary right now, it is possible to gain too much. But forget about drastically slashing calories or following strict diets during pregnancy. Instead, focus on making small, healthy changes, such as switching to non-fat milk; replacing fatty, high-sugar snacks and desserts for lower-fat options or fruit; and choosing lean cuts of meat. Here are more ways to maximize nutrition during your pregnancy.
The top eat-right strategy while you're pregnant: Consume a variety of foods to make sure your baby gets the widest array of nutrients possible. Here's a refresher course on the basics you need-and lots of yummy ways to get them.
Where to find Protein: Beef, soy, dairy products, chicken, fish, pork, eggs, dried beans and lentils, and peanut butter.
It may help to prevent neural-tube defects that occur early in pregnancy. It's recommended that women get 400 micrograms (mcg) a day before conceiving-but it's still a vital mineral through your first trimester, when daily needs jump to 600 mcg.
Where to find Folate: Orange juice, spinach, fortified breakfast cereal (check labels), lentils, fortified pasta and bread, rice, oatmeal, broccoli,and strawberries.
Your baby gets the calcium necessary for healthy bones and teeth from your bones, so be sure to fit it in (your prenatal vitamin doesn't contain the amount you need every day). Keeping your bones strong now also means less risk for osteoporosis later.
Where to find Calcium: Milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, fortified soy milk, broccoli, almonds, and okra.
It helps ward off the constipation and hemorrhoids that often plague women during pregnancy. Fiber-rich foods will also keep you feeling full and satisfied.
Where to find Fiber: Whole-grain cereals, breads, pastas (look for types that pack at least 3 grams per serving), nuts, seeds, fruits (such as apples and pears with skin, berries, oranges), vegetables (such as potatoes with skin, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes).
Fat is necessary for the proper development of your baby's brain and central nervous system. Fat is also a source of energy, and it helps transport vitamins through your body.
Where to find Fat: Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, avocados, salmon, olive oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil.
Surprise! You only need an additional 300 calories per day during pregnancy (500 if you're carrying twins) to support your baby. For most women, this will add up to roughly 2,500 calories, depending on starting weight (but keep in mind that you shouldn't obsess over counting calories right now). What does 300 calories look like in the real world? Here are some nutrient-packed snacks and mini-meals to choose from, compliments of Roxanne Moore, R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association:
Food borne illnesses are particularly dangerous during pregnancy, so you should avoid foods that may be contaminated with bacteria and other germs. And what about things like coffee, tuna fish, or an occasional glass of wine? You've most likely heard lots of rumors, now here's the bottom line from experts.
We know, we know, all those trips to the bathroom are driving you crazy-but you shouldn't slack off on your fluid intake because of it. Staying hydrated is more important than ever now, due to your body's increased volume of blood. Plus, fluids can help you fight the fatigue and constipation that many pregnant women experience. You should still be sure to gulp down 8 glasses a day, but take heart: All non-caffeinated beverages count toward your goal. Broth-based low-sodium soups and water-rich fruits and veggies can also help keep you hydrated.
Pregnancy may make your cheeks glow, but thanks to the growing fetus's pressure on your organs, it can certainly do a number on your digestive system. But by tweaking your diet and following a few simple tips, you can help ease unpleasant symptoms, says Jeff Hempl, Ph.D., R.D., spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Here are some to try.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.