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Eating well during pregnancy is your best insurance plan for an uncomplicated pregnancy and a healthy baby. You can avoid many pregnancy complications by eating a well-balanced diet of high quality foods. Eating right will also make you feel better, give you more energy, and give your baby a healthy, strong beginning. The average weight gain is about 30-40 pounds. However, there is no normal amount to gain and it is much more important what you eat than how much you gain. Women who are underweight to begin with will need to gain more and women who are overweight will need to gain less.
Generally, you need to eat 300 extra calories per day while you are pregnant. More important than how much you eat is how, when, and what you eat. You should focus on nutrient rich foods and avoid empty calorie foods (like junk food, ice cream, soda, etc). You will need to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks per day, or 5 small meals. You are less likely to feel nauseous if you have something in your stomach.
It is important to eat minimally processed, nutritious foods. You will need a liberal intake of fruits and vegetables. Organic produce is best, as it has the most nutrients. It is best to eat foods in as natural a state as possible. This means fresh is best, followed by frozen, and lastly, canned vegetables. Focus on whole grains and complex carbohydrates and try to avoid refined breads, sweets, and sugars to maintain even blood sugar levels. If you crave sugar, it is a sure sign that you need to eat more protein.
Protein is extremely important during pregnancy. It is responsible for building the baby’s tissues, the increased blood volume, the placenta, the amniotic fluid, hormones, enzymes, and antibodies. You should consume 60-90 grams of protein per day. This is equal to about 8 servings of protein foods. Complete proteins included meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, and soy. Incomplete proteins need to be combined to make complete proteins. They include nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, grains, breads, and cereals. Some examples of protein are:
1 oz of cooked lean meat, fish, poultry, or seafood
2 hot dogs
2 oz or 3 links of sausage
1 cup milk
1 oz cheese
1/2 cup cooked dry beans
3 oz tofu
1 oz or 1/4 cup of peanuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1 1/2 oz or 1/3 cup of other nuts
2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1/4 cup dry quinoa
Try to eat a variety of foods and to vary the type of food (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, fruits and vegetables). Vary the source of foods (animal, vegetable, fruit). Vary the way you prepare the food as well (raw, cooked, boiled, steamed, sautéed, baked, or barbecued). Try to eat foods that are free of additives, preservatives, and dyes. Eat fruits instead of fruit juices, and drink boxed juices rather than sodas. Eliminate caffeine if at all possible. If you must, have no more than one serving of caffeine per day (one cup of tea or coffee).
Due to mercury levels in some large fish the FDA advise pregnant and nursing women against eating King mackerel, swordfish, shark, and tilefish. The Environmental Working Group expands the FDA advisory to include avoiding tuna fish steaks, sea bass, oysters, Marlin, Halibut, Pike, Walleye, White croaker, and Largemouth bass. Pregnant women should not eat raw fish of any kind.