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Healthy Pregnancy: Eating for Two?

There is a common belief that pregnancy is the time for indulgence. This is a myth. Not only can overeating make it harder to lose excess weight after delivery, but you're also at increased risk during pregnancy for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Eating healthily is more important now than ever! You need more protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid than you did before pregnancy. You also need more calories. But "eating for two" doesn't mean eating twice as much. Rather, it means that the foods you eat are the main source of nutrients for your baby. Sensible, balanced meals combined with regular physical fitness is still the best recipe for good health during your pregnancy.

You may sometimes be tempted to eat twice as much, but that's not what the doctor ordered. Your body becomes more efficient during pregnancy and can absorb more of the nutrients you eat. 

While guidelines vary, the Institute of Medicine says if you're a healthy weight when you conceive, you need:

  • no additional calories in the first trimester
  • 340 extra calories a day in the second trimester
  • about 450 extra calories a day in the third trimester. 

If you're overweight or underweight when you become pregnant, you'll need to take in more calorie or less calories depending on your weight gain goal.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that pregnant women consume 71 grams of protein per day. You need extra protein to support new cell growth in the fetus. 

The number of extra calories you require is small compared with the amount of extra nutrients, so make sure your additional calories come from high-nutrient foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, legumes, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and lean meats. All of these give you lots of nutritional bang for your calorie buck. 

Inadequate nutrition during pregnancy is thought to have lifelong effects on a baby's health. What you eat is important, so when you're tempted to overdo it, remember that you're eating for a baby, not another full-size adult. Choose quality over quantity!

Talk to any of our doctors about nutrition and diet at your next appointment. They can advise you on what is right for you before, during, and after your pregnancy.

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