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    Frequently Asked Questions About Nutrition and Weight Gain in Pregnancy

    Where does the weight go?

    Where does the weight go?
    Every pound you gain is needed for a specific purpose while your baby is growing inside of you. Your baby accounts for only part of the weight you must gain. Your own body must add blood, muscle, fluids and tissue necessary for your baby’s development. (The weights provided below are recommended as guidelines only.)

    Increase in Mother's Tissues*
    Baby's Needs
    Breast Changes
    3 pounds
    1 pound
    Blood Volume
    4 pounds
    Baby's weight
    7-1/2 pounds
    Body Fluids
    2-1/2 pounds
    Amniotic Fluid
    (bag of water)
    2 pounds
    Body Stores
    4-8 pounds
    2-1/2 pounds
    Weight Gain Range: 22-35 pounds
    *The amounts noted here are only approximate amounts

    Please Note
    Your baby gains the most weight during the last trimester. If you have already gained more than is recommended, it is important to continue eating for your baby. You never want to lose weight while pregnant. Eliminate high calorie foods and pay close attention to portion sizes.

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    Should I eat for two?

    No.It is a myth that a pregnant woman must eat for two. Your body becomes more efficient during pregnancy and therefore absorbs more nutrients. Although pregnancy increases the body’s need for calories and nutrition, the amounts are NOT doubled. About 300 calories per day are needed above your normal intake during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy (500 additional calories a day if you are under 18). You can easily add 300 calories by eating a piece of bread, an ounce of cheddar cheese and drinking an 8 oz. glass of low fat milk.

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    I feel sick all the time, and I'm not able to eat much. I'm worried that my baby may not be getting the proper nutrition; what should I do?

    Nausea during the first part of pregnancy is very common. Eat what you can tolerate. This might be only a couple of food items. Be patient, it usually is a temporary condition. Get plenty of fresh air, drink fluids between meals rather than with them, and try eating several small meals a day. Try sucking on a lemon drop before meal time. Many women have found this helpful. Also, sit up for at least 30 minutes after eating. (See section on nausea and vomiting.)

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    Can I safely crash diet if I gain too fast?

    No. You should never lose weight while pregnant. A severe calorie restriction may harm your baby’s development. Do not go on fad diets or use diet pills.

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    If I'm gaining too fast, can I take calcium supplements instead to limit calories?

    No. Calcium rich foods provide calcium, as well as a large amount of protein which you could only get by eating more protein-rich foods. Choose nonfat or low-fat dairy products and other low-calorie, calcium-rich foods.

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    What should I do if I am gaining too much weight?

    Preventing excessive weight gain will help minimize delivery risks and protect your health. To keep within your recommended weight gain:

    • Eliminate sugars and sweets, which provide lots of calories, but have limited nutritional value.
    • Limit the amount of fat (such as butter, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressings, sour cream, sauces and gravies) you add to your foods.
    • Eat three small meals and three snacks daily at 2 or 3 hour intervals.
    • For snacks and desserts, choose fresh fruit, raw vegetables and nonfat dairy products instead of sweets. For example, try eating angel food cake, frozen nonfat yogurt or vanilla wafers instead of pound cake, ice cream or cookies.
    • Select lean protein foods, such as part skim cheeses, plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt, skinless poultry, fish and veal.
    • Cook foods without oil. Bake, broil, stir-fry, grill or boil foods instead of frying.
    • Watch the portion size of protein foods eaten for the day. For example, seven servings of protein can be obtained by eating one cooked egg, one 4 oz. hamburger and one chicken thigh.
    • Limit fruit juices (which are high in calories) to 6oz. per day. Eat whole pieces of fresh fruit instead.
    • Avoid high fat luncheon meats, such as bologna, salami, spam, sausage, corned beef and hot dogs. Eat turkey, ham, salmon or tuna instead.
    • Incorporate more activity and exercise into your day.
    • Be sure to drink at least 8 to10 glasses of water per day.
    • If you need help planning low-fat meals that you and your family will enjoy, talk to your health care provider about a referral to a prenatal nutritionist.

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    Should I drink whole milk to obtain the most nutrients?

    No. Nonfat and low fat milk has the same amount of vitamins, minerals and protein, but much less fat calories. Therefore, they are considered better sources of calcium and protein.

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    I don't like or can't tolerate milk or dairy products. How can I add calcium to my diet?

    You need to look for other good sources of calcium, such as legumes (starchy beans), dark green vegetables, tofu and canned salmon or sardines. Calcium supplements are also an option. 1,200-1,500 mg of calcium is recommended every day during pregnancy. Look for elemental calcium in the form of calcium citrate, lactate or gluconate, as these are best absorbed. Avoid calcium supplements containing bone meal, dolomite, and oyster shells. They may be contaminated with harmful substances like lead, calcium and mercury. Remember, if you take calcium supplements, you will need to eat extra portions of protein-rich foods.

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    Are artificial sweeteners OK during pregnancy?

    Artificial sweeteners have not been studied enough in human pregnancy to know their health effects on developing babies. Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and Sucralose (Splenda) are okay during pregnancy, but limit regular. Saccharin (Sweet'N Low) and Stevia are not recommended. Check the ingredients on low calorie and “light” foods for artificial sweeteners.

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    Won't the prenatal vitamins I take supply me with my daily needs?

    No. Prenatal vitamins alone do not supply the protein, fiber, minerals and energy (calories) necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Vitamins are considered supplements, not substitutes for a healthy diet.

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    Do I really need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement?

    It is recommended that all pregnant women in their second and third trimester take a daily iron supplement containing 30 mg of elemental iron. You may not need to take other vitamins and mineral supplements depending upon the quality of your diet.

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    If vitamins are good for my baby and me, shouldn't I take a lot of them?

    No. Too much of certain vitamins may actually cause harm to you and your growing baby. It is recommended that supplementation with high doses of Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B6 be avoided. Choose a multivitamin supplement with no more than the 100 percent recommended daily allowance (RDA) for each individual mineral and vitamin.

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    I've heard a lot in the news about folic acid. How important is folic acid?

    If you eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, green vegetables and whole grains, you are probably getting enough folic acid. However, if you have a family history of neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) or have previously given birth to a baby with a neural tube defect, it is recommended that you take 4 grams of folic acid supplements before conception and throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. Check with your health care provider for more information.

    Folic acid-rich foods include:

    • Breakfast cereals (1 serving): 100-400 micrograms folic acid
    • Asparagus (½ cup cooked): 88 micrograms folic acid
    • Spinach (½ cup cooked): 110 micrograms folic acid
    • Brussel sprouts (½ cup cooked): 46 micrograms folic acid
    • Orange juice (1 cup): 109 micrograms folic acid
    • Orange (1 medium): 39 micrograms folic acid
    • Black beans (½ cup cooked): 128 micrograms folic acid
    • Lentils (½ cup cooked): 179 micrograms folic acid
    • Pinto beans (½ cup cooked): 147 micrograms folic acid
    • Sunflower seeds (2 Tbsp.): 40 micrograms folic acid

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    I have a very busy schedule. How will I find the time to eat so often?

    Planning ahead is necessary and important. A few suggestions for between meal snacks include yogurt and fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, raw vegetables and yogurt dip, a glass of milk and half a sandwich, a baked potato or rice. Keep experimenting.

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    This seems like a lot of extra food. How can I possibly eat it all?

    Eat small, frequent meals and try combining foods from all the food groups while cooking. Review the suggested portion sizes, as your serving sizes may be larger than those recommended. You may already be eating adequate amounts.

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    When I looked at what I ate one day, I realized that I wasn't coming close to eating what I should. Is this a problem?

    Because of the varying appetite and tolerance that accompanies pregnancy, it is helpful to evaluate your nutritional intake over the period of a week. It is common to discover that some days are more nutritionally balanced than others. If your diet over the course of a week includes roughly 15 percent protein, 65 percent carbohydrates and 20 percent fat from good nutritional choices, as well as plenty of water, you are doing an excellent job of providing sound nutrition for you and your baby.

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