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Women's Health

A Pregnant Woman's Daily Diet

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At no other time in life is nutrition as important as before, during, and following pregnancy. On the other hand, women can still eat foods that come in a box or a bag, eat out several times a week, or order pizza to go as long as they also follow a few simple eating-for-two dietary guidelines.

A Pregnant Woman Should Include in Her Daily Diet at Least:

  • Five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (including at least one serving of a dark orange vegetable, two servings of dark green leafy vegetables, and one serving of citrus fruit)
  • Six servings of enriched, whole-grain breads and cereals. Three servings of nonfat or low-fat milk or milk products
  • Two to three servings of extra-lean meats, chicken without the skin, fish, or cooked dried beans and peas
  • Eight glasses of water

The guidelines for eating well for a healthy pregnancy are simple and easy to follow. When, where, and how much she eats is flexible, and often is governed by necessity. A pregnant woman in her first trimester might choose a snack for breakfast and a large evening meal if she suffers from morning sickness, but select a larger breakfast and a light evening meal in the last trimester when heartburn is more of a problem. Avoid or limit caffeine (such as coffee, tea, and colas) and avoid alcohol and tobacco. Since no safe limit has been established for alcohol, abstinence is a woman's best bet.

A Weighty Issue

If a woman does not gain enough weight, her baby also won't gain enough weight, which places the newborn at high risk for health problems. Optimal weight gains of 25 to 35 pounds in a slender woman helps ensure a healthy-sized baby. Underweight women should gain more weight, or approximately 28 to 40 pounds. Overweight women should not attempt to use pregnancy as a way to use up extra body fat, since stored body fat is not the stuff from which babies are made. A modest weight gain of between 12 to 25 pounds is recommended for these women.

Further weight gain beyond recommended amounts will not make bigger or healthier babies. It will make regaining a desirable figure more difficult after delivery. The secret is to pace the gain, with weight gain increasing from very little in the first trimester to as much as a pound a week in the last two months of pregnancy.

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