Are you eating for two?

Although many pregnant women never experience food cravings, you might be having these cravings as early as the first month. It's okay to give in to them once in a while, but watch your diet. You should be consuming a healthy mix of food groups to maintain a balanced diet for your health and the normal development of your child. If you are craving non-food substances (starch, clay, ice, plaster, paint, hair or gravel), contact your doctor. You could have a condition called "pica," which signals that your body has a mineral deficiency. Your doctor can prescribe supplements to combat this problem

Your focus should be on nutrition rather than weight. You're not really eating for two, but be sure to make everything you eat count. You will only need about 300-500 calories extra a day while you are pregnant. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and protein. Stay away from junk foods or foods with no nutritional value.

You may feel hungrier than normal.

If your nausea and vomiting have stopped, you may be experiencing a return of your appetite by the end of this month. Some women find that they get hungry more often when they are pregnant than they used to. Eat a mini-meal or snack of some nutritious food if you're feeling hungry. You don't want to gain too much weight too soon

The most important thing to remember is that a healthy diet is more important than what you gain. Some women will gain more, as in the case of women who were underweight to begin with, and those carrying multiple babies. Others will gain less. Pregnancy is not the time to go on a reducing diet. Even if you are overweight, reducing can actually harm the baby by burning your maternal fat stores. This can release toxins stored in your fat that are harmful to the baby.

What's good for you and your baby during pregnancy:

  • Drink a quarter pint of milk a day, especially during the second and third trimesters
  • Take an iron supplement and a folic-acid supplement (or be sure these are included in the multivitamin supplement prescribed by your midwife or doctor).
  • Avoid fish, especially fresh-water fish
  • Get three good servings of protein each day
  • Drink six to eight glasses of liquid a day
  • Eat frequent small meals
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine

Eat smaller meals more regularly.

When eating seems particularly difficult, try small amounts several times a day. This will discourage nausea and heartburn. It's hard to be creative when you don't feel good or don't have the energy, so here are some nutritious suggestions for small meals.

  • Yogurt shake made with vanilla yogurt, banana and orange juice
  • Hard-boiled egg with a small salad Chicken noodle soup and whole-grain bread
  • Salad on a whole-wheat roll,
  • Small bran muffin and some fruit
  • Turkey sandwich in pita bread with sliced tomato and sprouts
  • Cold chicken with dried apricots
  • Bowl of whole-grain cereal with milk
  • Low-fat cheese on whole-wheat bread
  • Porridge with raisins

To help curb cravings, keep small snacks at hand.

  • Cream crackers, whole-grain crackers, whole-wheat low-salt pretzels
  • Dried fruits such as dates, apricots, apples, figs.
  • Small yogurts, low-fat cheese
  • Bananas, apples, oranges, tangerines,
  • Bagels and small bread rolls
  • Baby carrots, snow peas
  • Homemade soup
  • Breakfast cereal, instant oatmeal, porridge

What food and drink to avoid during pregnancy:

  • Do not eat swordfish, shark or fresh tuna in order to avoid exposure to mercury. Go light on canned tuna.
  • Avoid all fresh-water fish, as they are more likely to be contaminated with pesticides and carcinogens like dioxin or PCBs.
  • Avoid caffeine. Although studies don't confirm it, caffeine may cause birth defects, particularly when consumed to excess.
  • Alcohol: avoid it when pregnant! A glass of wine once a week is acceptable but the conventional wisdom is to avoid alcohol altogether

Important Nutrients and Folic Acid

There are a few critical nutrients that play particularly important roles in fetal development. The increased demand on your system, plus the developing fetus, requires lots of extra nutrition. However, because your calorie needs don't increase enough to guarantee that quantity eating will take care of making sure you get those needed nutrients, you will have to pay special attention to your diet, and also take an appropriate supplement. These are protein, calcium, iron and fluids.


Protein provides materials for the growing tissues, including the placenta, the mother's blood and the baby. Get three good servings a day from tofu, beans, chicken, fish, meat or eggs. The National Academy of Science (USA) suggests a daily intake of 74 grams of protein during pregnancy.


This mineral is needed for proper bone formation in the baby and to help preserve the mother's bone strength. The need for calcium is most crucial during the last three months, when foetal bone formation takes place. If the mother's diet doesn't supply enough calcium, the foetus will draw the calcium it needs first, leaving the mother in a depleted state. Drink a little more than one quart of milk a day to ensure you get enough. This amount of milk will also make a significant contribution toward your protein intake.


An iron supplement is recommended during pregnancy since it is so difficult to get enough in your diet. The National Academy of Science recommends pregnant women take a supplement containing 30 mg. of iron a day during the second and third trimesters. Most of this iron is needed during the last three months because that is when the baby is accumulating it for use during early life. Mothers also need this extra iron to replenish their red blood supply and to accommodate the demand created by increased blood volume.

You need extra fluid to feed your increased blood volume and for amniotic fluid. Drink at least six to eight glasses of liquid a day. Holding back on them won't alleviate the swelling you may have during pregnancy, in fact, too little fluid can tax your kidneys, and cause them to retain fluid to ensure there's enough in your body.

Be sure to take Folic Acid during your pregnancy 

This is a B vitamin needed for proper cell division. Folic acid taken while trying to conceive and in early pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spine. Studies show a reduced risk of spina bifida (open spine) and anencephaly, by about 50 percent. Get 400 micrograms a day at least one month before becoming pregnant because these birth defects develop during the first month after conception, before most women know they are pregnant. A vitamin supplement is the best way to ensure you have met your requirements. Include foods like orange juice, spinach and legumes.

There is scattered research showing that folates may reduce the incidence of miscarriage, preterm delivery and low birth weight as well. Folates are present in a variety of foods and occur in especially high levels in liver, fortified or whole-grain breads and cereals, dried peas and beans, leafy vegetables, fruit and yeast.

Weight gain during pregnancy 

If you enter pregnancy at a weight you are happy with, then the suggested amount of weight you should gain is about 25 pounds. Only two to four pounds of that goes on during the first trimester, and the remainder is added at about a rate of three-quarters of a pound to one pound per week after that. For underweight mothers, it is important to put on at least 28 to 40 pounds. If it's lots of extra weight you've started with, add only 15 to 25 pounds. Because little weight is gained during the first 14 weeks, you needn't worry if you just don't feel like eating during that trimester. By nature's design, when the nausea has calmed down, you'll gain weight. 

Calorie Intake

Usually, caloric intake increases by about 200 calories for pregnancy, but this depends upon your pre-pregnant weight, body type and activity level. You need to take your nutritional history into account. About three to five pounds is generally gained in the first trimester, but up to 10 pounds can be normal. Some women even lose weight if nausea and vomiting persists.

"Excessive" weight gain is not necessarily harmful for either you or your baby, but makes postpartum weight loss more difficult. Also, gains of more than 35 or 40 pounds may result in a large-for-gestational-age infant. 

Nuritional guidelines for pregnancy seem like a lot of food, but the use of skim milk, whole grains and watching the serving sizes (usually a half cup, for example) can help. You may want to get a scale at first so you can see what three ounces of meat is really like (not much!). Also, when you buy eight ounces of cheese, cut it up right away into eight equal pieces and just eat one ounce at a time.

Drink plenty of water

Drink lots of water to help fill the stomach and provide help for digestion and elimination. Put a two-quart pitcher in your refrigerator and make sure it's gone by the end of the day. Try to relax, avoid large meals, nibble on anything healthful and start an exercise program. Unfortunately, during pregnancy, there is no room for "extras."