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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Eating for Two May Be Too Much

Fall 2013

Eating for Two May Be Too Much

By: Karen Tong
Date: October 7, 2013

The facts of prenatal nutrition


Portrait of Christine McKinney, RD, LDN, CDE, dietitian
Christine McKinney, RD, LDN, CDE, dietitian

During pregnancy, it can be tempting to splurge on treats and give in to cravings. However, nutrition is one of the keys to a healthy pregnancy. Dietitian Christine McKinney, RD, LDN, CDE, recommends ways to improve eating habits to benefit mother and baby.

In the first trimester, no extra calories are needed. When a mom-to-be reaches her second trimester, about 300 more calories a day are needed; and in the third trimester, an extra 300 to 500 calories a day are recommended. “It’s not necessary to eat another full meal to get these additional calories,” says McKinney. “It is, however, important to make these extra calories count by avoiding typical junk foods and picking a fruit, vegetable or protein instead. You don’t need to eat for two.”

When it comes to prenatal nutrition, there are plenty of myths and old wives’ tales. For example, it is not true that pregnant women should avoid eating any fish. In fact, each week it is safe to eat about 12 ounces of fish low in mercury. High-mercury fish to avoid include shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish. Seafood that is “safe” to eat includes salmon, catfish and shrimp.

Raw meat, unpasteurized cheese and some uncooked foods, such as sushi and sprouts, should be avoided during pregnancy. Hot dogs and deli meats can be eaten in moderation, only if they are first heated until steaming hot. McKinney adds, “Pregnant women also should limit their caffeine, and avoid alcohol and herbal remedies.”

Another myth that McKinney debunks is about cravings. “Just because you’re craving a certain food doesn’t mean your body is lacking that nutrient,” she says.

Enjoying a well-balanced diet from a variety of food groups helps to ensure your nutritional needs are met. Iron, folate (folic acid) and calcium are essential during pregnancy. Multivitamins or prenatal vitamins can help supplement your diet. “Pregnancy is an important time to have healthy eating habits because it can help your baby have the best start,” says McKinney.

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