The need to start eating for two doesn't really kick in until the second trimester of pregnancy. Your baby may grow from the size of a pencil point to around 2 1/2 inches in the first trimester, but considering he still weighs just half an ounce, you don't need extra calories to fuel his growth. That changes in the second trimester, when you do need extra calories to supply both your needs. Don't plan on doubling your food intake as you start eating for two, though; you only need an additional 340 calories per day.
In the second trimester, you gain between 1 and 2 pounds per week, a big increase from the 1 to 4 extra pounds you gained in the entire first three months. All this weight isn't going straight to your baby; additional breast tissue, an increase in your fluid volume, amniotic fluid around the baby, placental growth, increased uterine muscle, and extra stores of fat and protein all contribute to the extra pounds. Most women feel wonderful in the second trimester. Nausea has finally disappeared, and your baby isn't big enough to put pressure on your organs and make it hard to eat. Don't let feeling good or the fact that you finally look pregnant lull you into throwing dietary common sense out the window. Excess weight gain increases your risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery.
While you could toss back a few glasses of soda to make up your 340 additional calories, it wouldn't be a good nutritional decision. Both you and your baby need high-quality foods to supply the vitamins and minerals, as well as the calories, you need for your baby's optimal growth in the second trimester. Protein helps create new tissue for your baby, which he'll need as he gains around 2 pounds and adds around 6.5 inches, tripling his height from crown to rump, in the second trimester. Protein requirements increase during pregnancy -- get a minimum of 60 grams per day. Some experts recommend much more, between 75 and 100 grams of protein per day. Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and pork are your best protein bets; if you follow a vegan diet, get protein from nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.
Throughout your pregnancy, carbohydrates supply the bulk of your energy needs. But all carbs are not equal; eating pastries doesn't pack the nutritional punch of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These not only contain the carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals you need, but also provide fiber, which helps you avoid constipation, a common complaint as your baby grows and puts pressure on your intestines. For most pregnant women, carbs should comprise 40 to 50 percent of their daily calories, but if you have gestational diabetes, follow your doctor's recommendations for carbohydrate intake.
Fats have a bad reputation, but they're a necessary part of your diet during pregnancy; 25 to 35 percent of your calories should come from fats. The key is picking the right fats: healthy fats such as unsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your lipid levels and provide nutrients essential for your baby's brain, eyes and nervous system. Fish such as salmon, trout, herring and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid, better known as DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. Because fish contains methylmercury, a toxin, limit your intake to 12 ounces per week. Vegetarians can get omega-3s from alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, found in soy and walnuts. Flaxseed also contains ALA, but flaxseed might be harmful in pregnancy and should be avoided, the March of Dimes warns. Avoid trans fats, found in processed foods and saturated fats; they can increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
Vitamins and Minerals
While getting enough of all vitamins and minerals is important throughout pregnancy, two nutrients are especially important in the second trimester: calcium and iron. Calcium helps build strong bones in your baby's developing skeleton, and iron helps create new red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body and to your baby via the placenta. Get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily in food or supplements, while increasing your iron intake to 27 milligrams per day. A prenatal vitamin can ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but getting your nutrients from food is always best.
Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. She also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. She has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.