Eat Better

Break bad eating habits for a healthier pregnancy


The more nutritious your prenatal diet is, the better off you and your baby will be. So those extra 300 daily calories (yup, only 300, and only in your second and third trimesters!) should be carefully chosen. And here's a thought: Keep up the good eating once your baby is born. Because before you know it, your little one will be reaching for what's on your plate. If any of the bad habits described here sound familiar, now's the time to lose them for good.

Old Habit: Skipping breakfast

Why it's bad: "During pregnancy, blood sugar can drop very quickly due to a rise in a hormone in the placenta that stimulates insulin production," says Sadaty. "Skipping meals can lead to nausea, lightheadedness and vomiting." And they don't call it morning sickness for nothing: Pregnancy-related nausea is often worse when your stomach's empty. Once you start breastfeeding, eating breakfast is crucial to getting in enough daily calories for milk production.

New healthy habit: Eat a simple but nutritious breakfast. Ideally you want something with protein, carbohydrates and a bit of fat. Have a bowl of high-fiber cereal with milk, topped with fruit. Or a piece of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, plus a bowl of strawberries.

Old Habit: Raiding the vending machine

Why it's bad: Most of those goodies are loaded with fat, salt and empty calories. "Whatever time you have as a pregnant woman, you're going to have even less as a new mom," says Lauren Slayton, R.D., director of Foodtrainers in New York City. "So get into the habit now of keeping convenient, nutritious snacks on hand."

New healthy habit: Stock up on granola bars, low-salt soups, string cheese, baked chips or cut-up fruit and vegetables. Or make your own nutritious trail mix to stash in your desk or glove compartment: 10 almonds, plus 2 tablespoons of dried blueberries or cranberries.

Old Habit: Forgoing fish

Why it's bad: Yes, some seafood contains mercury, which can cross the placenta and harm your baby. But mercury-phobia can rob you of the benefits of fish and shellfish, which are low in saturated fat and contain high-quality protein. Not to mention omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost baby's brainpower and vision, and even help prevent postpartum depression, studies show. An added bonus: A small-scale study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher levels of DHA (a type of omega-3) in the mother's blood correlated with better sleeping patterns in her newborn.

New healthy habit: Avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. Instead, enjoy up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as wild Pacific salmon and tilapia, or ask your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement.

Old Habit: Not drinking enough water

Why it's bad: Your blood volume nearly doubles by the third trimester, so you need plenty of water to help create it. Poor fluid intake can lead to lightheadedness and fainting, and dehydration can land you in the hospital facing serious consequences, including abnormally low amniotic-fluid levels and preterm labor.

New healthy habit: Slayton recommends drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. "Pale and plentiful urine is the key that signifies you're drinking enough]," she says. To stay hydrated, try keeping bottles of water with you at all times, and make deals with yourself throughout the day: You won't go to lunch until you finish a bottle; you have to polish off a bottle before your afternoon meeting is over. You get the drift.

Indulge Your Cravings

What are you longing for? Here are some healthy options packing only about 150 calories each.

You crave: Crunchy

Satisfy with: 4 cups Jolly Time Healthy Pop butter flavor popcorn (94 percent fat-free) sprinkled lightly with grated Parmesan cheese.

You crave: Sweet

Satisfy with: 1 melted Hershey's Miniatures Special Dark bar poured over 2 cups sliced strawberries.

You crave: Salty

Satisfy with: 1 Morningstar Farms veggie corn dog spread with 1 tablespoon mustard.

You crave: Greasy

Satisfy with: English muffin pizza, made with 1/4 cup tomato sauce, 1/4 cup part-skim mozzarella and 1/2 whole-wheat English muffin; place in toaster oven until cheese melts.

You crave: Creamy

Satisfy with: 3 tablespoons hummus spread on a 4-inch whole-wheat pita.

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