The Truth about Eating for Two

Do you really need to eat twice as much food during your pregnancy? Of course not! In fact, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is of utmost importance while expecting. Learn how to eat healthily and satisfy your and your baby’s nutrition needs.

Pregnancy is a time of weight gain and weird food cravings—but just because you pack on a few extra pounds and feel like eating broccoli with peanut butter doesn’t mean it’s time for a free-for-all, anything-goes diet. Now that you’re “eating for two,” your primary concern should be maintaining a nutritious meal plan that benefits both you and your baby.

How Much is Too Much?

You may be wondering, now that you’re pregnant, if you should literally eat enough for two. To be brief, the answer is no. Kristen Burris, owner and medical director of the American Acupuncture Center, Inc. in San Diego, California, believes “this is one of the most dangerous misconceptions during pregnancy.”

Eating unhealthily and gaining too much weight are prime causes of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, not to mention bloating! So while you must certainly be more cautious of what you are putting into your body, there is no need to double your food intake.

Nutrition Guidelines

“For a normal pregnancy with moderate exercise three to five times a week, a woman only needs about 300 extra calories a day,” says Burris. However, Raul Artal, MD, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Louis University School of Medicine, says that with 60 percent of the population being overweight or obese, caloric increases may need to be modified. Gaining between 20 and 35 pounds is usually a safe range during pregnancy, yet this greatly depends on your prepregnancy weight. Discuss the appropriate weight gain range for you with your doctor.

Balanced meals for an expecting woman are crucial. Be sure to include the following when planning your meals:

Carbohydrates: Bulk up on the carbohydrates, says Molly Kimball, RD, dietitian and sports nutritionist for the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans. “You’ll need all your carbs for your own energy and that of your baby.” She also notes that pregnant women should eat a light, carb-filled snack every three to four hours and be sure to eat a bit before exercising to keep glucose going to the baby.

Calcium: Kimball recommends consuming 1,200 to 1,500 mg of calcium a day. To ensure your baby has strong bones and teeth, make sure there is enough milk and yogurt in your diet. Or, take a calcium supplement to keep your baby growing strong.

Protein: Consuming 60 grams of protein daily is what Kimball recommends. Chicken breasts, milk, and eggs are all good sources of protein and keep you and your unborn child nourished.

Fiber: “Eating plenty of fiber-rich foods can help minimize constipation caused by your elevated hormone levels,” explains Kimball. Whole-grain products are key and include high-fiber breads, cereals, and tortillas.

Water: Don’t forget the water! You may feel like you’re guzzling non-stop, but drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day will keep you hydrated and feeling healthy, says Burris. You can always substitute a glass of water with a glass of fresh-squeezed juice. It will make for a sweet, yummy treat, without you resorting to the junk food aisle.

Vitamins: Taking a prenatal vitamin is also wise. Prenatals contain the majority of nutrients you and baby need over the coming months, especially nutrients like iron and folic acid.

Go Organic When You Can

Naturally grown vegetables and fruits along with naturally raised meat products provide delicious flavor and healthy benefits. Eating organic eliminates the risk of consuming pesticides, steroids, and antibiotics that could be potentially harmful to you and your baby. As always, be sure to cook meat thoroughly and only eat pasteurized dairy products, says Burris.

Foods Not Meant for Two

While eating healthy is generally good advice for expecting moms, there are some foods that carry with them potential hazards. And now that you are eating for baby too, take into consideration these foods to avoid:

  • Undercooked eggs: This includes foods that contain eggs with runny yolks in their ingredients, says Kimball. Things like cookie dough, soufflé, and Caesar dressing are off limits when pregnant.
  • Soft cheeses and deli meats: Cheese products such as brie, gorgonzola, and bleu are unpasteurized and can potentially carry Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that may contribute to miscarriage or stillbirth. Deli meats can also carry Listeria-causing bacteria, so fend off that craving for a sub sandwich until after your baby is born.
  • Fish containing mercury: Fish such as swordfish and marlin should remain off limits during your pregnancy. Consuming red snapper, tuna, halibut, and bass once a week is fine, but more than that can also be toxic to your baby. And of course avoid uncooked fish, such as sushi, altogether while you’re expecting.

Pregnancy is not the time to deprive yourself of your favorite foods, but it is also not the time to eat without abandon. Planning healthy, balanced meals will help you remain energetic and feeling good as your pregnancy progresses. And most important of all, your developing baby will be getting the nutrients he needs to grow and get a great start in life. While you may not be eating for two in the amount you consume, your food choices are your baby’s food choices, which is encouragement enough to eat right.

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