nutrition during pregnancy

As soon as you start thinking about having a baby, you should start thinking about what you eat. Begin loading up on the foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, learn the five food groups and balance your meals. And once you do become pregnant, make good nutrition a priority. Talk to your doctor about the foods that will provide the nutrients important to your baby's growth, as well as to your own well-being.

While nutritional needs and your own tolerance for eating will change during the different trimesters of your pregnancy, there are some general guidelines that will be important to follow throughout the nine months. For starters, eat balanced meals, do not skip meals, eliminate caffeine and drink lots of water, six to eight glasses a day.

Calcium is one of the most important minerals you will need during pregnancy. The current recommended amount of calcium intake during pregnancy is 1,200 mg, an increase of 400 mg a day over your usual needs. An increase in dairy products such as skim milk, cheese, yogurt, pudding and ice milk, is an easy way to consume lots of calcium. There are also many good non-dairy sources of calcium, including salmon, kale, broccoli, beans and calcium-fortified orange juice.

Folic acid is essential for a healthy baby and helps in the development of the fetal brain and spine. It is especially important during early pregnancy when many women don't even know that they are expecting.

Women should take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day throughout their pregnancy and may need to take a multi-vitamin or prenatal vitamin to meet this requirement. Some excellent sources of folic acid include dried beans, tofu, peanuts and peanut butter, as well as fortified cereals. Many breads are now also fortified with folic acid. Folic acid can also be found in many dark green vegetables, corn, cantaloupe, squash and beets.

Vitamin B12, found in animal products, is essential for proper nerve and brain functioning for both mother and baby. This is of special concern for women who are vegetarians. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified soy milk and/or soy meat replacements, as well as vitamin supplements.

Protein intake should be increased by 10 grams a day and can easily be found in animal products including meats, milk and eggs. Some plant foods, such as legumes, seeds and cereal grains, can also provide high quality protein. It is more beneficial if you combine one food from two of these categories in the form of such dishes as hummus, split pea soup, bean tacos or even a peanut butter sandwich.

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