Every bite counts
It takes about 55,000 extra calories to make a baby. That might seem like a lot, but it’s only 300 extra calories a day (the equivalent of a glass of low-fat milk, a slice of bread and an apple), and that’s only in the last two trimesters. Your calorie needs don’t budge in the first trimester, when your baby grows no longer than a string bean. However, to support yourself and your growing baby, vitamin and mineral needs skyrocket. You need more than twice as much vitamin A, folic acid and iron; and up to 50 percent more vitamin B1 and calcium. That means more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low- or nonfat milk — and, unfortunately, little room for extra chocolate cake.
Pregnant women need to get aggressive when it comes to meeting those needs. According to a study from the University of Maine in Orono, many fall short in their intake of several nutrients, including iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B6 and folic acid, especially in the first trimester, when their baby’s major organs are forming. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Continuing Surveys of Food Intakes by Individuals say that only one in every four pregnant women includes a folic acid-rich leafy vegetable in her daily menu, while pregnant women are as likely to drink coffee as orange juice, the best dietary source of vitamin C.
How do you maximize nutrients without adding unnecessary calories? We thought you might ask that.
Here’s what you need to eat every day to ensure optimal intake of all the building blocks your baby needs.
Whole-wheat bread and crackers, whole-grain cereals, brown rice, barley and oatmeal
How Much: At least 6 servings (1 serving = 1 slice of bread; 1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice or cereal)
- Fiber to keep you regular
- Carbohydrates to fuel the daily cell divisions and metabolic processes that make a baby
- B vitamins, which help convert calories into energy and contribute to normal growth and development
- Magnesium, essential for building bones and regulating nerves
- Trace minerals, such as copper, which help prevent birth defects, aid in the formation of connective tissue and are essential for the development of a baby’s circulatory, skeletal and nervous systems
- Folic acid (in fortified grains), the B vitamin that has been found to prevent neural-tube defects in the early stages of pregnancy and preterm deliveries in the last trimester