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Despite images of feasting on pickles and ice cream, a positive pregnancy test is not an invitation to eat twice as much for the next nine months. “Eating for two” should be interpreted carefully. Remember that the second person involved here starts out weighing far far less than even one pound! The added amount of necessary food intake during pregnancy is actually quite minimal; however, the choice of what is ingested is more important than ever before, as the nutrients consumed during pregnancy are a baby’s main source of nutrition.
According to the March of Dimes, most pregnant women only need about 300 extra daily calories. Picture half a sandwich and a glass of skim milk. Some women need more or less additional food intake, depending on pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI). A qualified health care provider can give advice about healthy weight gain parameters specific to each pregnancy.
A healthy, balanced diet can help ensure the good health of both mom and baby. Most women can benefit from additional vitamins and minerals during pregnancy, including extra calcium (1,000mg/day), iron (27 mg/day) and folic acid (0.4mg/day). Dairy products and sardines are high in calcium. Iron-rich foods include red meat, fortified cereals, spinach and raisins. Foods rich in folate, or folic acid, include leafy green vegetables like spinach, liver, orange juice, nuts and legumes. However, it may be difficult to consume enough folate through food alone.
To reduce potential risk of neural tube defects in a child, all women of childbearing age, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), should take supplemental multivitamins that include folic acid. Once pregnant—or even while trying to conceive—prenatal vitamins can provide sufficient folic acid and other nutrients, including recommended amounts of vitamins A, C, D, B6 and B12. A health care provider can recommend the appropriate amount and type of supplemental vitamins needed during pregnancy.
There are numerous items women should limit or avoid during pregnancy, for their own health and their babies’ health.