Between cravings and morning sickness, eating well during pregnancy may not always be a piece of cake. But prenatal nutrition is serious business. It's necessary for your baby's growth, proper brain development, reduced risk of birth defects and a strong immune system. Since it's not how much but what you eat that makes the difference, here's how the Healthy Pregnancy Diet can help:
• You only need about 300 extra calories a day during the second and third trimesters (and don't worry too much about extra calories during the first trimester -- especially if you feel nauseous frequently). This diet includes meal and snack selections that will keep you eating enough calories for you and baby.
• It's important to get enough vitamins, minerals, folic acid and fiber in your diet when you're pregnant. This meal plan includes foods that will help you meet your nutritional requirements (be sure to also take a daily prenatal multivitamin that contains 100 percent of the RDA for most nutrients, 400 micrograms of folic acid and 30 mg of iron).
• Protein provides materials for the growing tissues (including the placenta, the mother's blood and the baby). This diet includes at least three servings of protein a day, in a variety of foods like tofu, beans, chicken, fish and meat.
• Calcium is needed (especially in the last three months of pregnancy) for proper bone formation in the baby, as well as to help preserve strength in the mother's bones. This meal plan includes at least four servings of dairy products a day, mainly through milk, cheese and yogurt.