Since developing fetuses get their nutrition directly from their mothers, a woman who is pregnant needs to know which foods will provide proper nutrition for her growing baby.
Good foods contain carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals and come from the following food groups: fruits, vegetables, grain products, milk and milk products, meat or other protein foods. Fatty or overly sugared foods or drinks, such as pastries, doughnuts, and soda, contribute little but extra calories.
Protein provides the growth element for body tissues, including the growing baby, the placenta, the increase in the mother's blood volume, and the amniotic fluid. During pregnancy, a total of two or three servings a day is recommended. (One serving of protein is three ounces.) Lean meats, eggs, and other foods such as beans and tofu are excellent sources of protein.
Calcium makes bones and teeth strong, is found primarily in milk and milk products, although broccoli and canned fish also are good sources. For women who can't digest the sugar in milk or are lactose- intolerant, modified milk products are available in the dairy section of the supermarket. These include yogurt -- milk in cultured form -- and low-lactose substitutes. A woman who feels she is not getting enough milk products should talk with her health care provider about other sources of calcium.
Iron is needed for both mother's and baby's blood. Although good sources of iron are available in such foods as liver, red meats, and dried fruits, most pregnant women cannot obtain enough iron from diet alone. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that pregnant women take a supplement containing 30 milligrams of iron daily during the second and third trimesters.
Folic acid is a vitamin essential for the process of cell division and the development of healthy tissues. Like iron, folic acid can be found in many foods, including leafy green vegetables, liver and eggs. Studies show that folic acid can help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects. The United States Public Health Service recommended in September 1992 that all women of childbearing age who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. This is the current Recommended Daily Allowance of folic acid for non-pregnant women and is contained in many multivitamins.
A moderate salt intake is important for a pregnant woman.
Fluids also are essential, and drinking water, juice or milk can meet the recommended daily intake of six to eight glasses.
Adjustments in diet may be necessary to deal with some of the common discomforts of pregnancy. If nausea is a problem (usually during the first trimester), smaller more frequent meals may help, along with crackers as snacks and liquids between -- rather than with -- meals. Frequent small meals and avoiding greasy or heavily spiced foods and caffeine also can ease heartburn.
For constipation, which may occur at any time during pregnancy but is more common during the latter part, helpful remedies include increased fluid intake, high-fiber foods such as whole grains, and naturally laxative foods such as dried fruits (especially prunes and figs), and other fruits and juices, particularly prune juice.
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Nutrition during Pregnancy