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Eat twice as smart during pregnancy

May 08, 2002|BY LYNN F. LITTLE

By Lynn F. Little

Pregnancy is a critical time to start moving toward a healthy weight for both mother and child. However, pregnant women are also balancing many demands today - job, family, community commitments, etc. - and they often find it difficult to take good care of themselves.

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy is important for mother and baby. Gaining too little weight increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby. Gaining too much weight increases the risk of diabetes during pregnancy, complications during delivery, and obesity for the child later in life.

For a healthy pregnancy, women need to eat a little more - about 300 calories more per day - and a lot smarter. Rather than "eating for two," pregnant women should focus on eating twice as nutritiously.

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The recommended amount of weight gain for a pregnancy depends on several factors: age of the mother; pre-pregnancy weight, and how many babies she is carrying.

Young teenagers, underweight women, and those expecting twins or triplets need to gain more weight. Moms-to-be who are overweight before pregnancy still need to gain weight, just not as much.

Current recommendations suggest that a total gain of 25 to 35 pounds is optimal for most women. The pattern of weight gain during a pregnancy is also important. Women generally gain only a few pounds during the first three months. After that, the goal is a gradual and steady gain of about one pound per week. A sudden weight gain or any weight loss may indicate a problem and should always be discussed with your medical caregiver.

Try to eat smart while pregnant. Eating well, staying active and gaining the right amount of weight are three important keys to building a healthy baby. Pregnancy is never the time to diet, nor is it the time to eat twice as much.

To feel your best, balance nutrient-dense foods with safe physical activities, like walking and swimming.

For a brochure about increased nutrient needs for pregnancy, "How to Eat a Little More ... And a Lot Smarter," send a self-addressed, stamped (34c) business-sized envelope to Maryland Cooperative Extension - Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope "Eat Smarter."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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