It is a common myth that when women become pregnant, they need to start eating enough food for two people. While it is true that your body requires extra nutrients during pregnancy in order to keep you and your baby healthy, it does not mean that you need to eat twice as much. In fact, it is recommended that a caloric increase of as little as 300 calories per day is more than enough for most women.
For a woman of average weight, the suggested weight gain is 25 to 30 pounds during pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Women will typically gain only two to four pounds during the first three months of pregnancy. After that, the average weight gain is three to four pounds per month. Check with your physician to determine how much weight gain is healthy for you.
What changes do I need to make?
Hopefully, you were leading a healthy lifestyle even before you became pregnant, including nutritious eating habits and getting plenty of exercise. If this is the case, you will probably only need to make a few adjustments to meet your nutritional requirements during pregnancy. The March of Dimes recommends that a pregnant woman’s diet include the following:
- 6 to 11 servings of grain products
- 3 to 5 servings of vegetables
- 2 to 4 servings of fruits
- 4 to 6 servings of milk and milk-based products
- 3 to 4 servings of lean meat and protein foods
- 6 to 8 glasses of fluids, including water and fruit juice
- Limited servings of fatty foods and sweets
What nutrients are important to include?
Protein is one of the most important nutrients during pregnancy. It is responsible for the proper growth of body tissues. These tissues include your growing baby, your placenta and the increased blood volume and amniotic fluid. Lean meats, eggs, beans and tofu are all excellent sources of protein.
Calcium, which makes your teeth and bones strong, can be found in milk and milk products, as well as in cheddar cheese, dark leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice, and broccoli.
Iron is important for both you and your baby’s blood. Iron can be found in foods like potatoes, spinach, iron-fortified and whole-grain breads and cereals and dried fruits. Your physician may also recommend that you take an iron supplement.
Folic acid has been shown to prevent neural tube defects in fetuses, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It is also essential to the formation of red blood cells. Folic acid can be found in many foods, such as kidney beans, peas, leafy green vegetables, oranges and orange juice, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the proper development of your baby’s brain and eyes. Fish especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, salmon, trout, herring, whitefish, anchovy and tuna.
Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in life. If you practice good nutrition and work closely with your physician, you will be putting yourself on the right path to delivering a healthy, happy baby.