Expecting a child can be one of the most anticipated moments of your life. But when you are expecting twins, you begin thinking in doubles. While stocking up on multiple cribs, clothes and diapers, you also need to think about doubling up on nutrients. "Women pregnant with multiples will need additional calories and nutrients to adequately meet their needs for healthy weight gain for the babies and the mother," says Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian and nutrition educator in Los Angeles. "Women pregnant with multiples might also need more iron, folate, calcium, zinc and magnesium." While preparing for double the pleasure, stock up on some extra healthy munchies to help ensure your babies will be healthy on arrival.
As is true for all expectant mothers, folic acid is extremely important in decreasing the risk of neural-tube defects in twins, says Sharon Richter, a registered dietitian in New York City. "It is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, but it is easily acquired through fortified breads, cereals and other grain-based products." Richter recommends 800 micrograms of folic acid daily.
If you're anticipating multiples, another dietary requirement necessary for healthy babies is protein. "Proteins serve as the building materials of body tissue," says Richter. "They also act as enzymes that regulate chemical reactions to keep a body growing and functioning." Beef up your daily intake of protein with lean meats, beans, eggs, chicken and soy-based products. Fish is also a solid choice of protein with the added benefits of omega-3 fatty acids -- however, Richter recommends consulting with a physician to determine the amount of fish you can safely consume.
When expecting twins, you'll need an extra dose of iron to keep your energy level high. "An increased supply of iron is needed for hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that binds oxygen for delivery to the tissues," says Richter. Combining iron with foods high in acid will help your body to absorb it easily. Toast to the day each morning with orange juice and yogurt while taking an iron supplement.
Although a prenatal vitamin is necessary for any type of pregnancy, additional fetuses require an increased need for all nutrients. A prenatal vitamin will help you boost your daily intake of zinc, copper, vitamin C and vitamin D, says Richter. Improve your intake of vitamin A by chomping on leafy greens and yellow-orange vegetables. Enrich your diet with foods that contain vitamin C, too, such as kiwis, mangoes, peppers and oranges. "A twin pregnancy needs at least one or two vitamin C-rich fruits or vegetables daily and at least four others," advises Richter.
Carrying twins takes double the effort when it comes to providing your body with the nutrients needed, but even though it is necessary to up your calorie intake, this doesn't mean you should waste those calories on sugary or fatty foods. "Pregnant women don't just need extra calories, they need extra nutrients, like protein, iron, folate, calcium, vitamin D and essential fatty acids as well, which means that those extra calories should come from healthy, nutrient-rich foods," says Rania Batayneh, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and author of "The 1:1:1 Diet."
Batayneh recommends stocking up on a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; sweet potatoes for vitamins A and C, folate and fiber; Greek yogurt for protein and calcium; eggs and beans for quality protein; and whole grains for vitamin E, selenium and phytonutrients. Get a double dose of nutrients with a breakfast of scrambled eggs with spinach and whole grain toast or a healthy lunch of salmon over brown rice and steamed greens. Your daily diet will taste and feel refreshing for all three of you.
When consuming healthy foods and nutrients, mothers should focus on getting "adequate" amounts versus "extra" when pregnant with twins, warns Julie Matthews, a certified nutrition consultant in San Francisco. "This is where meeting the daily value is important, since if you do not consume enough, your body will pull it from your bones or other stores to get enough, and with twins, this could be very taxing on the body."