Choosing the Proper Pregnancy Diet

A pregnant woman should eat a healthy extra 300 calories a day for the baby. See more pregnancy pictures.

If your diet is balanced and not too heavy in sugar or fat, you don't need to modify the way you eat dramatically.

During pregnancy, you should take in roughly 300 extra calories a day, on average. That means that if you're at a healthy weight and you're taking in 2,100 calories per day, while pregnant you should take in an average of 2,400 calories per day (perhaps a little less during your first trimester and a little more during your third trimester).

Where are you going to get the extra 300 calories a day you need during pregnancy? You could stop off for a double cheeseburger and fries (actually, that would put you well over 300). Or you could opt for low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese. It's easy to see which choice is wiser. The key is to make sure that your extra calories are packed with nutrients, protein, and carbohydrates.

It is very common for women to experience morning sickness during the first trimester. If you are experiencing this nausea and are unable to eat a well-balanced diet, you may wonder whether or not you are getting enough nutrition for you and the baby. The fact is, you can go for several weeks not eating an optimal diet without any ill effects on the baby. You may find that the only foods you can tolerate are foods heavy in starch or carbohydrates. If all you feel like eating are potatoes, bread, and pasta, go right ahead. It is more important that you keep something down rather than starve.

No single food can satisfy all of your important nutritional needs. The food pyramid from the USDA is a general guideline that illustrates how much food from each group you should eat.

An important underlying concept in the food pyramid is that the most important food groups are grain products, fruits, and vegetables. These should be complemented by low-fat foods from the other groups (protein and dairy products) as well. While fats, oils, and sweets are also included in the pyramid, these groups should constitute only a small part of your diet. The food pyramid shows you the relative proportions of servings you should eat in each group.

See the next page to view food recommendations.