Eating For Two
While it is always important to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet, when you are pregnant it takes on a whole new significance. You’re not only eating for your own well being now, but you’re also consuming enough food to sustain the growing fetus inside of you; what you eat will effect his or her development.
The Value of Food
Eating a variety of nutritious foods will help ensure that you consume enough calories for you and your baby. How many calories a day do you need? Well, that depends on your age and sex as well as your current height, weight and physical activity level. For the average person, the caloric intake ranges from 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day. When you’re pregnant, you will need to consume an extra 300 calories a day. That may seem like a lot but really it is the equivalent of about two extra slices of a plain cheese pizza a day. If you were underweight or overweight at the start of your pregnancy, or if you are having a multiple birth, you caloric and dietary needs will be different.
Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy has been found to significantly aid in fetal development. Good maternal health and diet has been found to decrease the risk of miscarriage and premature labor as well as minimize the baby’s risk of illnesses. In fact, a recent study done at the University of California, Berkeley found that women who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and protein lowered their offspring’s risk of developing leukemia.
Variety is the Key
Unfortunately, far too often people think "boring" when they hear that they have to eat healthy. But eating well doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of certain foods. You can still have a cookie after dinner if you want, just don’t eat the whole the bag. All foods can be a part of a healthy diet as long as you consume things in moderation.
Easy ways of consuming healthier foods is to include lots of raw or steamed fruits and vegetables in your diet. Also, choose foods that are made with whole grains and that haven’t been processed too much. In the supermarket, look for foods that are labeled as "low-fat", "fat-free" or "low calorie" and don’t forget to read the nutrition labels.
Ideally, you should try and spread out your meals. Have small meals and snacks throughout the day instead of just three big meals a day. Remember, what you eat is more important than how much you eat (although you should strive to consume the right amount of calories). Also, try to eat foods that are rich in protein, iron or calcium, all of which you and your baby need for healthy development.
The Daily Servings
Your daily intake for each of the food groups increases with pregnancy. If you’re pregnant, you will need 4 to 6 servings of dairy every day (a serving is equal to 250ml of milk or two square slices of cheese). You will also need 6 to 11 servings of grains (a serving is equal to one slice of bread, half a bagel, or one cup of cooked pasta) along with 3 to 4 servings of protein (two tablespoons of peanut butter, one to two eggs, or a 3oz piece of meat is one protein serving). You will need four servings of fruit a day while you will need up to five servings of vegetables a day (a serving is one medium size fruit or vegetable, 125ml of 100% fruit juice, or a cup of salad).
Quick Snack and Meal Ideas
When you’re in a rush, try some of these speedy meals.
- Cup or bowl of low-sodium soup with a whole grain roll
- Turkey sandwich in half of a whole wheat pita with lots of veggies
- Low-fat granola with some fruit and fat-free yogurt on top
- A whole wheat bagel topped with tahini or low-fat cheese and lot’s of veggies
- Bowl of fruit salad
- Baked (or microwaved) potato topped with shredded cheese and broccoli or low-fat sour cream
- Low-fat or homemade bran muffin and some fruit
What to Avoid
Here are some things you should avoid while you’re pregnant.
- Fast food, fried food and junk food. These are high in fat and calories and have very little nutritional value.
- Processed foods. The more your food has been handled, the fewer nutrients it will contain. Choose whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables more often.
- Sauces, gravies, and butter. They all contain lots of fat and calories. Look for low-fat versions whenever possible.
- Prepared frozen meals. Although they can be convenient, they can also be loaded with fat and calories. Look for frozen meals labeled as "low-fat" or make extra portions of your dinner and freeze them.
- Don’t skip breakfast. Both you and your baby need to start the day off right. Missing breakfast means that you will need to spend the rest of the day catching up in calories and this may cause you to overeat.
- Don’t over-serve. Keep your portions small; you can always take seconds if you’re still hungry. This will also keep you from eating too much.
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