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Eating for Two
If you are pregnant, a new mom or someone just thinking about getting pregnant chances are eating healthy is a top concern. And it should be! Paying attention to what and how much food you eat is always a good idea to maintain a healthy weight and ensure a balanced diet. However, during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, nutrition becomes even more important for mom and baby to get enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed to be healthy, and remain healthy.
“Eating for two” does not mean eating twice as much because there are two of you! The idea is that what mom eats, the baby is “eating” too. This is because the nutrients that mom gets from food flow into her bloodstream and through the placenta to the baby. Therefore, when mom eats enough iron, protein, and calcium from her diet she absorbs what she needs and has enough to pass to the baby. When she doesn’t, those important nutrients must come from elsewhere and the result will mean deficiencies for mom and/or baby. On the other hand, eating too many calories each day is also a problem if both mom and baby grow too big. This can lead to health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and early delivery, which puts the baby at risk for all kinds of health problems. So, what is a mama to do?
Check It Out!
In the first weeks of pregnancy, no additional calories are needed. What is important is checking in with yourself to be sure you are eating the right foods daily. To do this, each day make a list with the following words written down:
- Dairy/calcium equivalent
- Protein (meat, eggs, beans, fish, chicken)
Then simply plan each meal to include foods from all these food groups. Every time you consume a serving of food from the list put a checkmark next to that group.
One serving is equal to 1 cup of vegetables and milk/calcium equivalent; ½ cup of fruit; 1 oz of protein; and approximately 1 oz of grains. The goal is to have two checks next to the fruit, vegetable, and dairy groups. For the protein group, the goal is to have two checks if each check represents 2 ½ ounces of protein consumed. Most people eat a lot of grains per day; therefore, being mindful to limit these foods to one-quarter of your plate is essential.
In the second and third trimester and while breastfeeding, mom’s nutritional need increases a bit more. As such, mom should add one more servings daily of vegetables, dairy/calcium equivalent, and protein than she ate during the first trimester. For the remainder of the pregnancy, the goal now is to get three checks for vegetables and dairy/calcium equivalent and three checks for 2 ½ oz protein daily. Fruit stays the same at two checks, and grains should not exceed eight ounces for the whole day.
During exclusive breastfeeding, the need for protein and whole grains and vegetable intake increase again by one more serving a day. Ryan Health’s Women, Infants, and Children’s (WIC) nutritionists and breastfeeding experts can help ensure optimum nutrition for you and your baby. Additionally, checking off food groups is an easy way to track that mom and baby are eating foods essential to good health, which is important during pregnancy and beyond.
By Helene Rosenhouse-Romeo, RD, CDN, CLC, MPH Director of Ryan Health WIC Program and Nutrition