The Right Pregnancy Diet
Nutrition is never more important than in pregnancy, when you're literally laying the foundation for your baby's future. Your pregnancy diet will have implications that will last the baby's whole life long.
Certain nutrients take a new priority now. Most women need to increase the amount of protein in their pregnancy diet. You'll also need higher amounts of calcium, folic acid, and iron. Since it can be difficult to get enough of these nutrients through diet alone, you will probably need to take a prenatal supplement. Protein intake can easily be increased by adding skim milk powder or an extra egg white to whatever you're already eating.
The good news for moms who want to ensure their own health along with that of their baby is that it doesn't take a lot of extra calories to provide all the needed nutrients. Adding 300 high-quality calories per day will ensure safe, steady weight gain at the proper rate. And remember that, though it's called a pregnancy diet, it's a "this is what you should eat" diet. You should never try to lose weight while pregnant. Even if you were overweight when you became pregnant, you'll still need to gain - though possibly not as much as someone who began at a healthy weight.
The March of Dimes has modified the traditional food pyramid to incorporate the needs of pregnant women. Their recommendations for the optimum pregnancy diet include:
- Whole grain products (breads and cereals), 6 - 11 servings/day. For the most fiber, vitamins and nutrients, choose whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice) whenever possible.
- Vegetables, 3 - 5 servings/day. Fresh vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, folate, and other vitamins. Go for variety in both color (green, orange, yellow) and texture (firm, leafy).
- Fruits, 2 - 4 servings/day. Again, fresh is best, and a variety of colors will help ensure a variety of nutrients.
- Milk and milk products, 3 - 4 servings/day. Low-fat choices (skim milk, fat-free yogurt) give you just as many nutrients as the full-fat varieties and are packed with protein and calcium.
- Meat and protein foods, 3 - 4 servings/day. Lean meats are best. Fish is great, but limit your quantities, as some types may be harmful to your baby.
- Fats and sweets, a minimal amount. You don't have to cut your sweet tooth off cold turkey, but choose healthy alternatives whenever possible.