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Eating Right During Pregnancy

Eating right during pregnancy is an important responsibility. Not only do you need to maintain your own health, but your baby is also depending on you for everything he needs. In some instances, your growing baby will take the nutrients he needs even at your expense. For example, if your diet doesn’t include enough calcium, calcium will be taken from your calcium stores – your bones – for your baby. This can mean an increased likelihood that you’ll develop osteoporosis later in life, and is the science behind the old wives' tale that you lose a tooth for every child.

In addition to an overall healthy diet, there are specific nutrients that must be included in a healthy pregnancy diet. While you’re eating for two, for most of your pregnancy, that second person is not much bigger than your fist. You only need about an additional 300 to 500 calories per day if you’re carrying one baby and twice that if you’re carrying twins. The thing you need to focus on more than overall calorie intake, however, is the quality of those calories. This is very much a case of quality being at least as important as quantity, if not more so.

For example, you’ll need additional iron during your pregnancy. When you’re pregnant, your blood volume nearly doubles and you need enough iron for all those red blood cells to be healthy. Food sources of iron are more easily absorbed than artificial iron from a supplement – some good sources of iron include dried fruits, spinach, red meat, fish and chicken.

The B vitamin folic acid is also important, especially in early pregnancy when the tissues of the baby's brain and spinal cord are forming. In fact, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting enough folic acid even before you conceive, as some of these important structures will form even before you know you’re pregnant. However, it’s hard to get enough folic acid through diet alone, although you can get folic acid in many grain products, such as breakfast cereal and breads that have been fortified with additional folic acid. Your best bet to ensure adequate folic acid intake is with a good quality supplement.

In addition, if you want your baby to have strong teeth and bones, he needs plenty of calcium and vitamin D. The best sources of calcium and vitamin D are milk and milk products, such as cheese and yogurt. Most soy products, such as tofu and soy milk, also contain calcium and Vitamin D, but should be eaten in moderation, as excessive quantities of soy may cause harm to your developing baby.

Your pregnancy diet should also include healthy fats and essential fatty acids. Healthy fats include nut oils and nuts, olive oil and olives, avocados and fatty fish like salmon. Butter is a better choice than other saturated fats and fine in moderation. However, some women may find it hard to consume enough essential fatty acids without taking a supplement – check with your doctor to see if this is something you should consider.

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