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You’ve always said you were going to “clean up” your diet. Well, the time has never been more right than now. The demands of your blossoming body — not to mention your baby’s — mean putting your nutrition know-how to work and learning to make the most of every morsel. Consider the difference between a 200-calorie doughnut and a 200-calorie carton of yogurt: Same calorie contents, very different nutrients.
“Pregnancy is a physically stressful time,” says Anne Dubner, M.A., R.D., a dietitian in private practice in Houston who teaches prenatal nutrition classes. “You have to make sure both you and your baby are well-nourished for the best possible outcome.”
To help you make wise choices, we’ve come up with 20 pregnancy power foods and a meal plan to show you how to use these and other great foods. (And remember, it’s always a good idea to take a vitamin and mineral supplement during pregnancy.)
Power foods: What are they?
Our power foods are pulled from the following vital food groups:
Your basic beans, greens and grains “Complex carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for your brain and body, and for your baby’s, too,” says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy (Henry Holt, 1995). “They should be the foundation of your diet.”
Vegetables and beans, such as kidney and pinto beans, are loaded with B vitamins, including folic acid; in the earliest stages of pregnancy, these are crucial in helping prevent birth defects affecting the spinal column. These foods are also rich in fiber, something you particularly need during the latter part of your pregnancy, when foods move a little more slowly through your digestive system. Especially if you take iron supplements, this can cause constipation and, in turn, hemorrhoids.
Whole grains provide fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, copper and zinc. And most grain products on the market, such as pasta, rice, cereal and bread, are enriched with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron.
Lean, mean protein Lean meat, chicken, eggs and seafood are your best bet for getting plenty of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
Calcium counts According to experts, a lot of women don’t get enough calcium in their diets. The problem is compounded during pregnancy because your baby draws on your nutrient stores. Dairy products, particularly milk, are among the best sources of calcium because its vitamin D helps the mineral be absorbed.
≈Colorful fruits “All fruits are wonderful,” says Somer, “but if you are looking for the Cadillac versions, go for the colorful ones.” Most fruits are “plum-full” of vitamin C, which helps with iron absorption.
Fill up on fluids Drink at least eight glasses of water a day, in part to keep up with your expanding blood volume (it increases up to 50 percent during pregnancy). It’s also a good habit, since your body’s demand for water will rise even more if you breastfeed. Drink fluids between meals, and avoid drinking too much just before bedtime.
The weighing game
For some mothers-to-be, watching the numbers on the scale climb each month can be disconcerting, but now is not the time to diet. While gaining weight is essential to the health of your baby, you don’t want to gain too much. In fact, during the first trimester, your energy needs hardly increase at all. And during the last two, you require only about 300 extra calories a day.
The extra calories you take in should add up to a healthy weight gain. According to the Institute of Medicine, this means that women of normal weight should gain 25–35 pounds; overweight women, 15–25 pounds; underweight women, 28–40 pounds; and women carrying twins, 35–45 pounds.