protein is essential to create the placenta and amniotic fluid as well as the baby’s muscle tissue; lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs, low-fat dairy products and lentils are all good sources. During pregnancy, your requirement increases from 50 grams to 60 grams per day. Just 1 1¼4 cups of milk will give you those 10 extra grams.
iron Aim for 30 milligrams daily. “Animal foods (particularly red meat) are the most concentrated sources of absorbable iron,” Atkinson says. Fortified cereals such as Total are the next best source for vegetarians. To enhance absorption, eat iron-rich foods along with those high in vitamin C. When reading labels, realize that the DV for nonpregnant women is only 18 milligrams.
Don’t forget fiber
Up to 38 percent of pregnant women experience constipation during pregnancy, Atkinson says. Fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help prevent constipation and the painful hemorrhoids that often result. Check labels with the goal of getting 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Excellent and easy sources include one cup of Kellogg’s All-Bran cereal (17.6 grams) or black beans (15 grams).
What you won’t find on labels
Caffeine While recent studies have found no association between caffeine intake and birth defects, some studies suggest that drinking more than two or three cups of coffee daily increases the chances of low birth weight. If you must drink sodas, look for “caffeine-free” on the label.
DHA/omega-3 fatty acids Prevalent in fish, flaxseed, tofu, walnuts and canola oil, omega-3s are critical for a baby’s brain and spinal cord development. And preliminary research suggests that a diet rich in omega-3s may help decrease the risk of preterm birth.
Nitrates These chemicals, most often found in cured and processed meats, such as salami and hot dogs, can be difficult to detect on food labels, often traveling under the names nitrites or nitrosamines. Foods containing these chemicals should be avoided. A few studies suggest that prenatal exposure to nitrates might increase type I diabetes risk in children.
Trans fats These fats, which raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels the way saturated fats do, often go unrecognized. Until new labeling rules go into effect in 2006, check ingredient lists for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated”; these indicate that a product has trans fats.