Nutrition for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Skip the sweets, load up on veggies and other helpful dietary advice

Pregnancy and early motherhood is a time of rapid change and growth, for both you and your baby. Like a construction worker building a house, your body is literally building a new life. More than any other choice you make, the food you eat impacts not only your health, but your baby's health. A high-quality diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding can minimize many of the discomforts commonly associated with this time. It also ensures the best possible health for your little one.

Calories

Forget the idea that you're eating for two. This old myth can lead to unhealthy weight gain, gestational diabetes, large babies and difficult deliveries. You don't need to double your calorie intake while you're pregnant or breastfeeding, and you shouldn't view pregnancy as a free card to eat anything you want. Instead, add one or two extra snacks to your daily meal plan to give you the extra nutrition your body and your baby need.

How many extra calories do you require? The number varies depending on several factors, including your weight prior to pregnancy, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Very thin women may need more calories, while overweight women need fewer calories. In general, though, during the first trimester, you need no additional calories. Add about 340 additional calories every day during the second trimester and 450 calories during the third trimester. Avoid empty calories from donuts, soda, candy and chips, and eat nutrient-dense foods instead. Try low-sugar yogurt, cheese, fruit or a handful of almonds.

Protein

Your body needs plenty of protein to build tissue and muscle in your developing baby and to ensure an adequate supply of high-quality milk during breastfeeding. Every tissue in your baby's body -- including bones, muscles, skin, hair, blood, organs and connective tissues -- is made from protein. Protein even supports hormone production and sexual development.

Dr. Asela Catherine Russell, an OB/GYN and founder of the Center for Women's Health in Denver, says, "Protein intake is critically important in pregnancy and breastfeeding. We recommend at least 60 grams of protein intake a day. It's fine to get your protein from a variety of sources like Greek yogurt, beans and lean meats. But limit your fish intake to 12 ounces per week."

RELATED: Nutrition Tips for Busy Moms

Calcium

Both you and your baby need plenty of calcium every day. Calcium is necessary to build baby's bones and teeth. As a pregnant or breastfeeding mom, you need calcium to keep your own bones strong. Common pregnancy complaints like insomnia, irritability and leg cramps often signal a calcium deficiency.

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