Twin pregnancy: Are you getting enough protein?

I am currently 15 weeks pregnant with twins. I understand that I should be consuming between 140 to 150 grams of protein per day. That seems like an awful lot! I have kept track of my intake over the past week or so and the best I can muster is 100 grams per day. I don't particularly like eggs or meat, and have experienced a lot of nausea, making it even harder to get the necessary protein. Are the "shakes" found in health food stores a good choice?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Congratulations! In order to have the healthiest babies possible, the next few months will be critical from a nutrition point of view. Compared to a woman carrying only one baby, you will need to eat an additional 500 to 1000 calories per day, and get an additional 25 grams of protein, beginning at about 20 weeks gestation. In all, you need about 90 to 120 grams, not the 140 to 150 that you have stated above. So it seems as if you are now getting almost all the protein that you need. You will also need more vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, so you should be taking a daily prenatal vitamin.

One of the best ways for you to get your additional protein is to drink more milk. Milk is not only a good source of high quality protein, it also has the calcium your babies will need. One glass of milk will give you eight grams of protein. According to the book, "Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy," by Elizabeth Somers, a women carrying twins should get the equivalent of six glasses of milk per day.

Although liquid food supplements sound like an easy out, they may not be the best choice. If you drink them in place of healthy eating, you will miss out on other naturally occurring nutrients, such as fiber and phytochemicals. The supplements may also contain large amounts of sugar, which you don't need. And, the vitamin and mineral mix may not be optimal for pregnancy. Your best route is to stick with a well-balanced diet, supplemented with a prenatal vitamin.

To get the additional protein you need, some of the best, and most concentrated sources are:

Meat, poultry, or fish: 21 grams of protein/3 ounces cooked
Eggs: 7 grams protein/1 large egg
Milk: 8 grams protein/8 ounces
Yogurt: 9 grams protein/1 cup plain
Tofu: 8 grams protein/4 ounces
Peanut butter: 4 grams protein/1 tablespoon

Following is an example of how you may get your necessary 100 plus grams of protein per day. It does not include the other foods you also need, such as grains, fruits, and veggies:

Breakfast: 1 cup milk, 4 ounces cottage cheese/22 grams protein

Snack: 1 cup yogurt/9 grams protein

Lunch: Chicken sandwich made with 3 ounces deli chicken breast and 1 cup Milk/ 26 grams protein

Snack: Peanut butter crackers (2 tablespoons peanut butter) and 1 glass Milk/16 grams protein

Dinner: 3 ounces poached salmon, one glass milk/28 grams

Snack: Tofu smoothie using 4 ounces silken tofu, and sprinkled with Brewer's yeast/11 grams protein

Total calculated protein for the day equals 112 grams. Other foods that you eat during the day will add significant amounts of protein to that number. For example, the grains in the breads, cereals, and crackers you eat contain protein as do many of the vegetables. If you find you cannot tolerate large meals, eat several small meals throughout the day, perhaps eating every three hours or so.

Some of the best foods to eat to boost your protein intake include: Cheese, Brewer's yeast, milk, seafood, pumpkin seeds, nuts, peanut butter, beef and poultry, and soybean products. When planning your snacks and meals, reach for foods that will help boost your protein intake. For example, instead of a bowl of pretzels, take a handful of nuts. Put peanut butter on your toast instead of butter. Add dry milk powder to your baked goods and casseroles. Buy yogurt and milk with added milk solids, substitute 1/4 soy flour for regular flour in baking, sprinkle cereals and casseroles with wheat germ or Brewer's yeast. Add Brewer's yeast to fruit smoothie drinks, add nuts to your cereal, toss pumpkin seeds into the salad, sprinkle shredded cheese into the pasta and add slices of low fat cheese to your sandwiches. As you can see, even if you don't like meat or eggs, you can still have a wide choice of protein containing foods. Perhaps you can find ways to hide eggs in foods you do like. For example, crepes contain eggs, yet are more like a pancake. Add eggs to ground turkey to make turkey burgers, or bake some custard. Rice pudding contains lots of eggs and milk, yet tastes not much like either. Or try the simple recipe for Sweet Rice and Raisin Pudding.

If you get your six glasses of milk (or equivalent) each day, plus have six ounces of a protein rich meat or seafood, the additional foods you eat will boost your protein intake to appropriate levels. However, if you find that because of nausea, you just can't eat, speak with your doctor and discuss with her the use of liquid meal replacements. Certainly they are a better choice than many other alternatives, such as not eating, or eating a limited diet of only foods that you can tolerate, such as just toast or oatmeal. Best of luck to you for a happy and healthy pregnancy.

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