If you’re like many pregnant women, you vowed to eat healthier the minute you found out you were expecting. You may have even started making a mental list of nutritional do’s and don’ts: Eat more calcium-rich foods, get more protein, cut out the caffeine and junk foods. Healthy eating habits on your part will set the stage for your baby to grow into a strong child and adult and
ultimately reduce his risk for certain diseases. Scientific research continues to show that a prenatal diet rich in
nutrient-dense foods is key in preventing heart disease, diabetes, obesity and many types of cancer. Here’s advice on what to eat—and what to avoid—for a healthy pregnancy.
DO choose foods that do double duty.
“Eat nutrient-dense foods,” says Heidi Reichenberger, M.S., R.D., a Boston-based spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “They will end up meeting more than one nutritional need at a time.” For example, milk provides calcium and plenty of protein. Lean pork and beef offer protein, along with B vitamins, iron and zinc. Orange juice fills you with folate plus vitamin C; and vitamin C helps you to absorb iron from foods such as fiber-rich black beans. Whole grains are filled with fiber, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
DON’T fill up on empty calories.
Candy, cake, cookies and ice cream definitely don’t count as double-duty, nutrient-rich foods. It’s OK to have them during pregnancy—but in moderation, says Reichenberger. “If you’re eating an excessive amount of sweets during pregnancy, you are either replacing nutrient-dense foods or getting too many overall calories,” she says.
DO remember that you’re not really eating for two.
“The old adage that you’re eating for two is not accurate,” says Scott Logan, M.D., an OB-GYN at Lake Forest Hospital in Chicago. “One of the major problems we see with pregnant women is overeating.” Indeed, many moms-to-be don’t realize that they need only 300 extra calories a day—and only in the second and third trimesters. “But many women eat more than the additional 300 calories a day during that time,” Logan says. And most end up gaining more than the recommended 25 to 35 pounds.
DON’T forget to take your prenatal vitamin.
A daily prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement acts as a safeguard, providing nutrients—vitamins, folate, iron and more—beyond what you’ll get from meals and snacks. “Iron is especially important, since it combats anemia,” says Reichenberger. “And since blood volume increases significantly during pregnancy, more iron is needed.”