Because Americans are among the wealthiest people in the world, they are often thought to be the most well nourished. Unfortunately, this belief is not true. The average American diet includes a good deal of fat, sugar and highly processed food. This “junk food” provides only empty calories—that is, it has a high caloric content with no corresponding nutritional value.
A diet comprised of junk food is not health for anyone, but for a developing fetus, it is disastrous! Your baby’s entire body—including his liver, his heart, his bones, and his brain—is formed completely from the nutrients you provide him. Your baby is not a parasite drawing from your body’s reserves. Only the nutrients that you consume are available for his formation and growth. For him to develop to his full potential, both physically and mentally, you must eat properly throughout your pregnancy. Even his intelligence quotient (IQ) in later life can be affected by your diet, since his tiny brain cells need adequate protein from which to develop. Remember this as you plan your meals every day.
If you are already nutrition conscious and eating a healthy diet, your main concern will simply be to increase your protein intake. However, if you are a “junk food junkie”, now is the time to change. By eliminating empty calories from your diet as well as increasing your consumption of protein, you can be confident that you are providing your baby with the optimum building blocks. And as a bonus, you will feel better, too.
Fortunately, many women begin to pay closer attention to their diets during pregnancy. Some are motivated by a desire to do everything possible to ensure healthy child. Some are prompted by problems with constipation, heartburn, morning sickness, or fatigue. An expanding abdomen and weight gain are factors that negatively concern still other women, who fear never losing the added pounds. It is important for you to realize that gaining weight is necessary during pregnancy and that you will lose the added weight afterwards.
A poor diet can cause a multitude of problems for the woman including anemia, infection, placental malfunction, difficult labor, cesarean delivery, poor postpartum healing, and failure at breastfeeding. The effects of a poor diet on the baby run from prematurity and low birth weight to brain damage and stillbirth.
This section we are introducing discusses exactly why mothers-to-be need certain food substances. It also explains how to plan a diet to best get them.
Every day, you make decisions that affect your health. You choose what foods or substances you will consume and what you will avoid. These decisions are particularly important when they also affect the health and development of another person—that tiny being growing inside of you who is totally dependent on your choices. Providing him with the best possible building blocks, while avoiding toxic substances, is the most important thing you can do for him while you are pregnant. Women who are well nourished have better pregnancies, shorter labors, and healthier babies.