Healthy Eating for Two

Monday, April 22, 2013

Pregnant woman eating a salad while looking at her belly

You are what you eat—and so is your baby. In addition to being a smokefree mom to be, eating well during pregnancy is one of the best and most important things you can do for yourself and for your baby. But it isn’t always easy. What does it mean to “eat for two?” And how do you know if you’re getting enough of the good stuff for you and for baby?

Check out these tips:

  • Take a prenatal vitamin.

    Your pregnant body needs more of some nutrients—like folate and iron. Folate is important for your baby’s brain development. Certain foods such as orange juice, beans (like lentils and kidney beans), and green leafy veggies are good sources of natural folate, but it’s hard to get enough for your growing baby just through your diet because your body just doesn't absorb it all. This is where a prenatal vitamin can help. Choose a multi-vitamin that contains 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid (the man-made form of folate) and 27 milligrams (mg) of iron. Your doctor may also give you a prescription for a prenatal vitamin.

  • Increase your calories after the first trimester. 

    Eating healthy for two does mean eating more, but not as much as you might think. During the first trimester (weeks 0–13) your calorie needs are about the same as they were before you were pregnant. After that, you need about an extra 300 calories per day (about 30 whole wheat crackers, two toaster waffles, or a cup of flavored, non-fat yogurt with 20–25 almonds).

  • Stay hydrated. 

    Drink at least 8 cups (64 oz.) of water per day. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration, constipation, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). If you don’t really like water or the thought of unflavored water makes you sick to your stomach, try adding a lime or lemon wedge or a splash of 100 percent fruit juice.

  • You may need to change your eating schedule.

    There is no set guide for how many times you should eat in a day when you’re pregnant. But you may find that you need to change your routine to help manage nausea, cravings, or other symptoms of your pregnancy. Try a few options out like eating 3–5 smaller meals or 6–8 mini meals to find the balance that works for you.

  • Some foods are off-limits… for now. 

    There are some foods that you cannot have when you are pregnant because they are dangerous for you or for your baby. Make sure that foods like meats, eggs, poultry, or fish are cooked thoroughly. Eating these foods raw or undercooked can make you or your unborn baby sick. Other foods that are off limits while you’re pregnant include unpasteurized dairy products and some specific fish like shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, which contain high levels of mercury. Deli or lunchmeats need to be heated until steamy before you eat them. Talk with your doctor before taking herbal supplements or if you are concerned about other things to limit or avoid during pregnancy.

Your calorie and nutritional needs during pregnancy depend on several things: pre-pregnancy weight, age, and activity level. Talk with your doctor about your specific needs. Learn more about healthy eating for mom and baby. 

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