Pregnancy Nutrition Book : Eating for Two (part 2) - The Pregnancy Food Guide Pyramid, Count on Carbohydrates

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3. The Pregnancy Food Guide Pyramid

Eating a variety of foods from all of the food groups is the best way to ensure you are getting the calories and nutrients you need. The USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid is a good guideline for pregnant women; it ensures you consume the following minimum number of servings in each food group (about 2,500 calories):

• 9 servings from the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group. Examples of a single serving from this group include a slice of whole-wheat bread, ½ cup cooked cereal, half a bagel, or ½ cup of pasta. Be sure to include whole-grain and whole-wheat starches as well as other starches higher in fiber.

• 4 servings from the vegetable group. Examples of a single serving from this group include 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, ½ cup of other vegetables, raw or cooked, or ¾ cup vegetable juice. Choose a variety of vegetables—the darker the color, the more nutrients a vegetable has.

• 3 servings from the fruit group. Examples of a single serving from this group include a medium apple, a small banana, a small orange, ½ cup chopped fruit, or ¾ cup fruit juice. Choose a variety of fruits daily, as raw fruits are higher in fiber than juices.

• 3–4 servings from the milk, yogurt, and cheese group. Examples of a single serving from this group include 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces natural cheese, or 2 ounces processed cheese. Use fat-free or low-fat milk, nonfat or low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheese.

• 6–7 ounces (2–3 servings) from the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group. Examples of a single serving from this group include 3 ounces poultry, fish, or lean meat; 1 ounce meat = ½ cup cooked dried beans, a whole egg, ½ cup tofu, 25n14 cup nuts, or 2 tablespoons peanut butter. Choose lean meats and trim fat from meat before cooking. With poultry, remove skin. Include cooked dry beans often as the main dish in meals.

A common pitfall to the healthy diet is skipping breakfast. When you skip breakfast, you are forcing your body to go ten to twelve hours without food—and going that long without nourishing your baby. When you are famished, it is easy to choose the wrong foods and eat too much of them, so skipping breakfast may cause you to eat more calories than you intended.

Carving Up the Calories

The calories in all the healthy foods that make up the USDA Food Guide Pyramid are made up of three basic nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These three nutrients are known as the macronutrients because we need them in larger amounts. Even though each macronutrient has a particular function in the body, they work together in partnership for good health and for a healthy pregnancy. During pregnancy, the required amounts of some of these nutrients change only slightly.

4. Count on Carbohydrates

You can count on carbohydrates to be your body’s main source of energy, especially for the brain and nervous system. Carbohydrates quickly and efficiently convert to energy for mom and baby. Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, dairy products, starches, and foods in the meat group such as beans and soy products. The only foods in which they are not found are meat, poultry, and fish. Fiber is also considered a carbohydrate and is important to health. However, fiber is not considered a nutrient because most of it is not digested or absorbed into the body.

Comprehending Carbs

Carbohydrates are classified into two different categories: simple carbohydrates, or sugars, and complex carbohydrates, or starches. Sugars are carbohydrates in their simplest form. Refined sugars are found in foods such as table sugar, honey, jams, candy, syrup, and soft drinks. Refined sugars provide calories, but they lack nutrients like vitamins and minerals, and fiber. Some simple sugars, such as those that occur naturally, are found in more nutritious foods, such as the fructose found in fruit or the lactose that is part of dairy products. Complex carbohydrates are basically formed of many simple sugars linked together. They are found in foods such as grains, pasta, rice, vegetables, breads, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Complex carbohydrates are much more nutrient-rich than simple sugars.

Before complex or simple carbohydrates can be used as energy, they must be broken down into glucose, or blood sugar. Glucose is carried through your bloodstream to your body’s cells, where it is converted to energy. Since simple carbohydrates or sugars are already in their simplest form, they go straight into the bloodstream. Complex carbohydrates must be broken down into glucose. Some glucose is used as energy, and some is stored. The hormone insulin helps to regulate your blood sugar.

How Many Carbs?

On average, women should get approximately 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates. Since pregnancy increases calorie needs, more calories must be ingested from carbohydrates. The key is to increase your calories by eating more complex carbohydrates and not more sugar. Take in more complex carbohydrates by eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, rice, breads, and cereals. Try adding more beans, lentils, and peas to your daily meals.

To figure how many grams of carbohydrates you need, follow these steps:

1. Calculate your estimated calorie need, as described on page 33.

2. Multiply your total by .45 (at the low end of recommended carb intake) to up to .65 (at the high end). The result is the number of calories you should get from carbohydrates.

3. Calculate the number of grams of carbohydrates you need to eat as follows. Take the number of carbohydrate calories (from step 2) and divide by 4. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, so the result of this step is the total grams of carbohydrates you should eat daily.

Following the Food Guide Pyramid and eating the suggested number of servings from each food group during pregnancy will ensure you are consuming the amount of carbohydrates your body needs for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Even though carbohydrates are extremely important, they need to be balanced with the other two macronutrients: protein and fat.

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