Pregnancy A Meal Ticket for

Did you know that it takes about 75,000 calories (about 340 to 450 extra calories a day after the first trimester) over nine months for a healthy baby to develop? Eating for two doesn't need to be much different than eating for one. The key is to "choose your calories by the company they keep"-in other words, choose nutrient-rich foods for extra calories.

MyPyramid provides the guidelines for the nutrients and the energy needed for your "meal ticket for two." A few more nutrient-rich food-group foods can supply all you need. See chapter 10 for more about MyPyramid.

How do 340 calories translate into "real food"? Try these nutrient-rich "combos" for about that amount:

  • 1 ounce of cold cereal, a banana, and 1 cup of fat-free milk, or
  • 1 baked potato with skin, topped with V2 cup each of broccoli and cauliflower, and 1 ounce of low-fat cheese, or
  • 2 ounces of turkey on 2 slices of whole-grain or enriched bread, topped with lettuce and tomato.

Baby-Building Protein

The structural components of body cells—your baby's and yours—are mostly protein. Changes in your own body, particularly the placenta, also require protein. An eating plan that matches MyPyramid advice provides enough protein for a healthy pregnancy.

Pregnancy requires somewhat more protein. The Institute of Medicine advises 71 grams of protein (compared with 46 grams before) daily for pregnant teens and adult pregnant women. Most nonpregnant women easily consume that much. To put the extra in perspective, a 3-ounce meat patty has about 20 grams of protein; 8 ounces of milk, about 8 grams of protein.

Eggs and dairy foods can provide enough protein for lacto-ovo-vegetarians. Vegans who consume plenty of legumes, grain products, vegetables, and nuts can get enough, too. See "Protein Power" in chapter 20.

Fuel for Your Unborn Baby

Your baby needs a constant supply of energy . . . every minute for about 280 days . . . to grow! For protein to build body cells, your body also needs an adequate energy supply. Otherwise your body uses protein for energy instead of cell building.

Eating for two (or more!) doesn't mean your calorie need doubles. Calorie needs increase during the course of pregnancy. For the first trimester you don't need more. However, the Institute of Medicine advises an additional 340 calories a day during the second trimester and 450 calories more than when you're not pregnant during the third trimester. Your individual calorie needs may differ—certainly if you're pregnant with twins or triplets. If you're physically active, you may need more. Talk with your doctor.

Most of your food energy should come from carbohydrates. How much? The Recommended Dietary Allowance advises at least 175 grams of carbohydrate a day, just for enough glucose for both mother and baby. For overall nourishment during pregnancy, you need more: 45 to 65 percent of total calories from carbohydrates. Let "carbs" come from nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes (dry beans), and grain products (including whole grains).

Dietary fat? For your baby's central nervous system, including brain cells, you need enough essential fatty acids. During pregnancy, the Institute of Medicine advises an Adequate Intake of 13 grams of omega-6 fatty acids and 1.4 grams of omega-3s daily. The percentage of calories advised from fat doesn't change during pregnancy. Restricting fat too much isn't advised. Refer to chapter 3 for more about fat, including essential fatty acids.

To fuel a healthy pregnancy, make your extra calories count! Choose mostly nutrient-rich foods from MyPyramid's five food groups. They provide you and your baby with a healthful dose of nutrients, too. For ways to "spend" extra calories for pregnancy, see "Pregnancy: A Meal Ticket for Two" in this chapter.

Vital Vitamins

If carbohydrates are the fuel of human life, vitamins are sparks that make body processes happen! Although all vitamins are important during pregnancy, some need special attention, including those important for cell division and the formation of new life.

A varied and balanced approach to eating is the best way to get the vitamins you and your unborn baby need. Your doctor may prescribe a prenatal vitamin/

mineral supplement, too. See "Vitamin/Mineral Supplements: Benefits and Risks " in chapter 23.

Vitamin A. Vitamin A, for example, promotes the growth and the health of cells and tissues throughout the body—yours and your baby's. There's no need for any extra from a supplement. Your everyday food choices can provide enough vitamin A for pregnancy.

What about supplements? Research suggests that excessive amounts from supplements (10,000 IU of vitamin A, or 3,000 mcg preformed vitamin A, daily) increase the risk of birth defects. Take supplements only in amounts recommended by your doctor. Check the Supplement Facts panel on the label, and choose one with no more than 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin A.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables high in beta carotene (which forms vitamin A) isn't a problem. Beta carotene does not convert to vitamin A when blood levels of vitamin A are normal.

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