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It’s tempting to think that taking a daily prenatal vitamin covers all your nutritional needs while you’re expecting, but nutrition experts say that for your body to properly absorb those vitamins and minerals, eating the right foods is essential. Your best guide? Food labels. Here’s a quick reference.
calories You need to add 340 calories per day in the second trimester and 452 a day in the third trimester, says Stephanie Atkinson, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Check serving sizes: A container may contain more servings (and, thus, more calories) than you think.
sugars Eating too much is likely to translate into weight gain above the 25 to 35 pounds normal-weight women should add over nine months. That could put you at increased risk for gestational diabetes. Strive to limit your intake of all types of sugars to 10 percent of daily calories (about 63 grams for a 2,500-calorie-a-day diet).
calcium This mineral protects your teeth and bones, forms your baby’s skeleton and may help lower his blood pressure later. To get the 1,000 milligrams you need daily, look for foods with 300 to 400 milligrams per serving (30 to 40 percent DV). Good sources include one cup of the following: yogurt (372 milligrams), calcium-fortified orange juice (253 milligrams) and 2 percent milk (285 milligrams).
folate All women need 400 micrograms daily of this B vitamin, which significantly decreases the risk of neural-tube defects such as spina bifida. Folate is prevalent in leafy green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits and juices, whole grains and some fortified cereals; concentrated sources include Total Corn Flakes (300 micrograms per cup) and Honey Nut Cheerios (200 micrograms).
fat “Pregnancy is no time to be on a low-fat diet,” says Miami dietitian Claudia Gonzalez, M.S., R.D. “Your baby needs fat for brain and vision development.” That said, strive to keep fat intake at less than 30 percent of daily calories (about 83 grams for a 2,500-calorie-a-day diet) and focus on getting them from brain- and vision-building DHA and omega-3 fatty acids (see “What You Won’t Find on Labels,” pg. 60). Limit saturated fat to 10 percent of calories (25 grams), maximum.
sodium Pregnant women can enjoy salt in moderation (2,000 to 3,000 milligrams daily). Studies show no evidence that restricting sodium alleviates or prevents toxemia (a dangerous condition whose symptoms include high blood pressure and fluid retention).