To eat or not to eat - that is the question
The answer, obviously, is to eat. But for women, especially
those who are pregnant or thinking about having a baby,
the real questions revolve around what should or should
not be on the menu.
One of the biggest myths surrounding pregnancy is
that it is a time for a woman to eat what she pleases.
After all, she is eating for two, right? True, but
studies have shown that only 300 additional daily calories
are needed to support a baby's healthy development.
Beyond that, extra calories only add to the mother's
Being overweight puts women at greater risk for certain
pregnancy related complications such as preeclampsia
and gestational diabetes.
"In North Carolina, more
than 40 percent of pregnant women gain more than what's
ideal," says Lisa Richardson, nutrition program
consultant with the N.C. Division of Public Health. "Overweight
and obese women tend to retain the excess weight beyond
one year postpartum, thus resulting in 'permanent'
Dieting, however, is ill-advised during pregnancy
as it can be hazardous to the mother and her unborn
child. Women are instead encouraged to make smarter,
healthier choices about what they eat. Conversely,
as for the more than 13% of women who are underweight
at conception, it is essential they too make sensible
decisions to add weight.
While cravings may be inevitable or even unusual (such
as ice cream smothered in peanut butter), it is important
that pregnant women balance their diet with foods beneficial
to fetal growth. This includes meals and snacks packed
with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and proteins.
Many essential vitamins and minerals can also be obtained
through a well-planned diet, though optimal doses are
hard to attain in our fast-paced, fast food environment.
Pregnant women can remedy this with prenatal vitamins.
Women who could become pregnant are encouraged to take
a daily multivitamin with at least 400 micrograms of
folic acid, essential in the prevention of many neural
tube birth defects.
Equally important as what a pregnant woman should
eat, are the foods she should avoid, foods that could
harm an unborn child. This includes raw fish and seafood
that may contain high levels of mercury such as albacore
tuna, swordfish and many game fish including trout
and striped bass.
Undercooked meat, soft cheeses, deli meats and unpasteurized
milk and milk products are off limits as well. These
foods have been known to cause listeriosis, a form
of food poisoning. If infected, a pregnant woman could
have a miscarriage or deliver prematurely. A newborn
could also become seriously and possibly fatally ill
as a result of listeriosis.
Though there are many factors which can affect the
health of a baby, getting proper nutrition before and
during pregnancy is one of the most important. It is
one way women can improve their chance of having a
here for more information on nutrition and pregnancy.
March is National Nutrition Month. Click
here for more information.
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