Most women are aware that diet affects a baby's development in utero, but many pregnant women still make eating errors--mainly because they don't know any better. Even women who try to eat nutritious foods get caught up in the idea that pregnancy is the time for indulgence. After all, haven't we heard that moms-to-be are "eating for two" our whole lives? Unfortunately, this dangerous myth can not only make it harder to lose the excess weight after delivery, but it also puts one at increased risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. The myth of “eating for two" endures partly because it kind of makes sense, but mainly because it is so appealing. Here's the truth:
- During your first trimester, you don't need any additional calories.
- In the second trimester, you need 340 more calories/day.
- In the third, you need 450 more calories/day.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that pregnant women consume 71 grams of protein per day.
- The number of extra calories you require is small compared with the amount of extra nutrients recommended, so get your additional calories from high-nutrient foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats. All of these give you lots of nutritional bang for your calorie buck.
While some women take in too many calories, others consume too few because they are terrified of gaining weight and scared it won't come off afterward, so they restrict their diets. This is a big mistake. For example, if you don't get 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, the baby's skeleton will be built with calcium leached from your bones.
Don't deprive yourself of necessary nutrients during pregnancy, as your fetus will not get what it needs for healthy growth and development. If you are obese, consult a dietitian who specializes in pregnancy nutrition to determine the proper prenatal diet for you.
Here are some tips for maximizing nutrition during pregnancy:
- Eat a variety of foods to meet your daily needs for protein, calories, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and key vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.
- Try to minimize "extra" foods that have calories but few nutrients – sugary beverages, fried foods, foods with extra fat and sugar. Instead, choose meals and snacks that pack the most nutrition per calorie. Adding a few nutrition-packed snacks – like yogurt, nuts, a hard-boiled egg, some fresh fruits or vegetables – to your daily intake is a great way to get the healthy calories your baby needs.
- Choose foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Pick whole-grain bread or brown rice over refined white bread or white rice, and fresh fruits or frozen unsweetened fruit over canned fruits in sugar syrup, for example.
- Eat fats, oils, and sweets sparingly. Be sure to choose healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, and olive oil.
If you have any diet or nutrition questions during your pregnancy, be sure to address them with your doctor at your next appointment. We are here to help!