Eating During Pregnancy (Part 1)

Eating properly during pregnancy is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your baby — and for yourself. You may be ravenous, but you really need only an additional 300 calories a day to gain the 25 to 35 pounds a normal-weight woman should throughout pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). “That doesn’t add up to much — approximately three cups of skim milk,” says Bridget Swinney, R.D., author of Eating Expectantly: A Practical and Tasty Approach to Prenatal Nutrition (Meadowbrook Press, 1996). Make smart choices about the nutrients you consume overall.

Concentrate on Carbohydrates

Rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals (oatmeal), fruits (berries and cantaloupe), and vegetables are your body’s primary sources of fuel and should provide half of your daily calories. These are all included in the Kephart 180 program.

Try to have several servings of grain foods (rice, oatmeal, Ezekiel grain bread), and four servings of vegetables to give you not only energy but also fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Also, vary your vegetable choices to include those that are dark-green and leafy (spinach, broccoli), deep-yellow or orange (carrots, sweet potatoes), and starchy (potatoes).

Eat Lean Fully Cooked Meat — and Other Protein Sources

Protein maintains muscles, and manufactures cells, enzymes, and hormones. It also helps produce the extra blood you need for your baby to develop normally. Poultry, fish, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and some combinations of grains and legumes, such as rice and chickpeas or black beans, are packed with protein. Eggs are good sources, too. Aim to include at least three-four servings of poultry, fish, meat, or legumes, and three or four servings of low-fat or nonfat milk.

Go For The Fats in Fish

Fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are instrumental to your baby’s vision and brain growth. They also work to improve a woman’s blood pressure, blood clotting, and immune response. All seafood provides omega-3 fatty acids, but salmon, bluefish, and trout have the highest concentrations. Elizabeth M. Ward, R.D., author of the American Dietetic Association’s Pregnancy Nutrition: Good Health for You and Your Baby (John Wiley & Sons, 1998), recommends eating two or three servings of fish a week. Restrict your consumption of swordfish and tuna to twice a week or eliminate it completely, however, because of their potentially high mercury content.

Take Your Vitamins

Prenatal supplements offer vitamins and minerals that you can’t always absorb from food. These nutrients serve many functions, from releasing the energy in food to building bones and normalizing heartbeat. Plus, supplements help you meet your increased folic acid and iron needs during pregnancy. Get your doctor’s approval of a supplement before taking it, and never take more than the recommended amount of any nutrient. Too much vitamin A, for instance, can cause birth defects. In addition, avoid all herbal supplements while you’re pregnant.

Fuel Up on Folic Acid

Although folic acid, the man made form of the B vitamin folate, is important throughout pregnancy for producing red blood cells and staving off anemia and premature delivery, it’s most critical during the first month, to prevent spina bifida and other neural-tube birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in fact, estimates that up to 70 percent of neural-tube defects could be prevented with adequate folic-acid intake.

Because many women aren’t aware they’re expecting until weeks into their pregnancy, it’s crucial for all women of childbearing age to get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. During pregnancy, the need jumps to 600 mcg. Synthetic folic acid, which also helps ward off heart disease, is absorbed at nearly twice the rate as the natural form, so get the bulk of your daily requirement in a supplement, says Ward. Breads and cereals fortified with folic acid are excellent sources, too. Lentils, spinach and asparagus are also high-folate foods.

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