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Third Trimester Nutrition

When you think about eating for two, doubling your food intake may spring to mind. This is particularly true during this last trimester when your pregnancy cravings are in full swing and you'd give just about anything for a hot fudge sundae -- with pickles on the side. You are certainly eating for two in the sense that there are two people benefiting from the foods you eat, says Dianne Rishikof, a Massachusetts-based registered dietitian. Upping the nutritional content of what you're eating -- rather than the quantity -- is your goal.

The Basic Nutrients

Many of the nutritional recommendations for the third trimester of pregnancy are similar to those for the first two. Plenty of water and other non-caffeinated drinks are important, both to encourage the kidneys to eliminate waste -- you're cleansing your baby's blood as well as your own -- and because most of the weight you're gaining at the end is water weight, according to Rishikof. Vitamins and nutrients, including choline, vitamin B6, zinc, iron and omega-3 fatty acids, support your unborn baby's bone, muscle, tissue and brain development.

Rishikof says there are two nutrients of particular importance in the last trimester: iron to support the increased blood supply and calcium to help grow strong bones for your baby. She also advises women to up their protein intake by about 10 grams each day.

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Nutrient-Rich Foods and Supplements

When you're cruising the grocery store aisles, seek out whole foods, that is, foods that are not processed, as often as possible. If you're not as fond of spinach as Popeye, however, consider getting an adequate amount of iron from lentils instead. Fortified cereals, however, may also be substituted.

Look to dairy products and fortified fruit juices for your body's calcium needs. Consider foods like fortified eggs and cod to get an adequate amount of choline and omega-3 fatty acids, but stay away from fish that is high in mercury, including tuna, swordfish, mackerel and orange roughy, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Bananas, chickpeas and potatoes are rich in vitamin B6, while nuts, beans and seeds are rich in zinc as well as protein if you're not a big meat-eater.

Rishikof recommends a consultation with your health care practitioners about calcium and iron supplements, and reminds pregnant women not to take the two supplements at the same time to avoid diminished absorption.

Bump Up the Calories

By the third trimester, a pregnant woman requires about 300 additional calories in her diet each day in comparison to before she was pregnant, according to Rishikof. While that sounds like a substantial amount at first, it's really only equivalent to a few glasses of milk, a few servings of fruits and vegetables, or a piece of chocolate cake. Before you dash off to the bakery, remember that it's OK to indulge in your chocolate obsession occasionally. Just make sure you're choosing healthy options far more often than the fat and sugar-rich chocolate cake.

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Eating Habits

Now that your belly's gotten big enough that it's tough to see your toes -- and you probably haven't been able to reach them for quite some time -- you're probably noticing that it's difficult to eat a full meal all at once.

"Because of the large baby and uterus in your abdomen, eating large meals can be very uncomfortable, so breaking food into smaller 'snack-like' meals is good," says Rishikof.

Your baby has grown enough that your uterus is now pressing up on your stomach all the time. Try three smaller meals each day and pack a snack or two for in-between, or divide the day into six small meals instead. Smaller, more frequent meals may also help to alleviate nausea and heartburn. Experiment with different snack and meal schedules to find out which one works best for you.

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