Did you know that what you eat is very important to your baby–even before you become pregnant? For example, it is important that you get enough folic acid before you become pregnant to prevent birth defects that can occur early in pregnancy. Getting enough of several other nutrients, like iron, calcium and protein, also is important before and during pregnancy. Young couple smiling Your doctor may encourage you to take pre-natal vitamins which contain all of the vitamins and minerals you will need to supplement a healthy diet. You may have heard people say that you need to eat twice as much while you are pregnant because you are eating for two, but you have to be careful to eat the right kinds of foods and in the right amounts. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy is just as bad for your baby as it is for you. Likewise, not gaining enough weight during pregnancy could result in a low birth weight baby. Dental health is important as well.  Always follow your doctor’s nutritional advice.
 
 
So, how much weight is the right amount to gain? It all depends on what your weight is before you become pregnant.Your doctor can help you determine your Body Mass Index (BMI). Your BMI takes into account your weight and height. If you are underweight (BMI < 19.8), you should plan to gain between 28 – 40 pounds. If you are normal weight (BMI between 19.8 and 26), your weight gain should becloser to 25 – 35 pounds. If you are overweight (BMIbetween 26 and 29), you should gain between 15 – 25 pounds. If you are obese (BMI > 29), you should plan to gain about 15 pounds. Remember, your doctor can help you calculate your BMI, just ask! Some women have trouble eating while they are pregnant.
 
 
In January and April 2005, the federal government issued new dietary guidelines and a new food pyramid for Americans. The guidelines and pyramid are for people who are NOT pregnant. New recommendations for pregnant women have not come out yet. Check with your health care provider to find out what changes to the dietary guidelines or food pyramid they recommend during your pregnancy. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will contribute important nutrients needed for healthy growth and development during every trimester.
 
 
Morning sickness, constipation and heartburn are the most common complaints. It often helps to eat smaller meals and have two to three snacks per day. Some women find that it helps to drink in between meals rather than during a meal, but it is important to make sure you are getting enough fluids – at least six to eight cups per day.Try to drink lots of water and juice. Avoid soda and don’t drink alcohol. Some women find colder foods like salads and fresh fruit easier to eat. Others prefer foods that are neither too hot nor too cold. The fluids and the fiber, from whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits and vegetables, will help you to avoid constipation. Make sure you take your prenatal vitamin every day. This is especially important to remember if you find eating difficult during pregnancy.
 
 
 Picture of mother hanging mobile over cribA few last words of warning! Alcohol in any amount can be harmful to your unborn baby, so it is best to avoid it completely while you are pregnant. Caffeine is allowed in small amounts – no more than 200 mg/day, or the equivalent of two cups of coffee. Mercury is a toxic metal that can harm unborn babies. Specific fish – shark, kingmackerel, swordfish and tilefish – can contain high levels of mercury and should be avoided. Other fish may contain small amounts of mercury, but as long as you choose a variety of different kinds of fish, you can safely eat up to 12 ounces per week of cooked fish. For more questions on healthy eating during pregnancy, talk to your doctor or dietitian.