Healthy Calories Vs. Unhealthy Calories During Pregnancy

It is important to note at this time that no two calories are created equal. There are 300 calories in a protein bar and a banana smoothie, and there are 300 calories in the average piece of cheesecake. Guess which one is going to be better for your baby?

The difficult part of counting calories when you’re pregnant is that you need to maintain a careful balance on several levels. First and foremost, you want to make sure that you’re eating enough to give your baby what it needs. Secondly, you want to make sure that the calories you are eating are “good” calories, calories coming from foods that are going to provide your baby with nutritional benefit as well.

On the flip side, you do not want to consume too many calories. If you do you will gain too much weight, potentially putting you at risk for early labor, pre-eclamsia, diabetes and heart problems. You also do not want to restrict your food intake too much. Pregnancy can lead to some pretty intense cravings, and ignoring these cravings can lead women to do some crazy things.

Unless you have one of the weight problems mentioned above you are probably better off considering your calorie intake guidelines to be just that-guidelines. It’s not going to hurt you to go over every once in a while and indulge in a piece of cheesecake or a chocolate chip cookie. Just don’t do it too often or too excessively. (Binging and eating a half a gallon of chocolate ice cream once isn’t going to hurt you, although it might make you sick, but doing it every day could be a problem.)

Try not to count your “junky” calories as part of your daily necessary intake. This will help you to continue eating the required number of “good” calories in a day, making sure that your baby is getting the nutrition that it needs. (That half gallon of ice cream is going to account for about half of your daily caloric intake, which means that half of the calories that your baby needs to grow today just went down the drain.) It is also going to help keep you from doing it too often, since consistently eating five to six hundred calories over your recommended daily intake is going to lead to excessive weight gain. The first time you step on the doctor’s scale and see you’ve gained ten pounds in a month the urge to binge flies out the window!

Junk food aside, not all “good” calories are created equal either. Here are some basic guidelines for choosing calories that are going to meet your caloric needs, your nutritional needs and your basic food desires. You have doubtlessly at some point in your life gone on a diet that has required you to limit yourself to certain types of foods. The Adkins diet, for example, severely limits your carbohydrates, while the Sonoma Diet cuts your dairy in half. What happened when you gave this diet a try? Unless you are extremely creative (or have an incredible amount of self control) you probably stuck to this diet for a short while, then tossed it to the wayside.

The trick to eating healthy when you are pregnant is the same as eating healthy when you’re not. You have to recognize what foods are best for your body and attempt to focus on them rather than their more tempting and less healthy counterparts. When you are choosing the foods you will eat when you are pregnant, consider the following:

Is it whole? Whole foods are those that are as close to their natural form as possible rather than being processed. Fresh fruits and vegetables rather than canned, whole grain breads rather than refined white and real cheese fall into this category. Whole foods are especially good for pregnant women because the fiber and water contained in them makes them easier to digest. This not only helps keep you from being even more tired than you already are because your body is struggling to digest your food, it also helps you to decrease your chances of suffering from constipation.

Is it a fruit or a vegetable? Fruits and veggies, particularly when fresh and/or leafy and green, are a valuable component of any pregnancy diet because most necessary vitamins can be found in them. Look below for a quick recap of necessary vitamins and the foods that provide them.

Is it a good carbohydrate or a bad carbohydrate? You cannot eliminate carbohydrates from your diet entirely when you are pregnant. They provide both you and your baby with the energy that you both need to grow and be healthy. What you can do is make sure that the carbohydrates you eat are good for you. There are two primary classes of carbohydrate, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are made of small sugar molecules that your body quickly absorbs. Examples of this are cakes, white breads, cookies, candies and pastas. These are the carbohydrates that you want to avoid because they will give you a quick sugar rush then leave you feeling tired and cranky-like the little toes digging into your ribs all night long weren’t enough to do that!

The second type of carbohydrate is a complex carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates include fiber and starches, such as whole grains and potatoes. These carbohydrates take a little longer to digest, leaving you feeling fuller, longer and giving you energy that lasts more than an hour or two. Of course, even among the good carbohydrates there are some that are going to be better for you than others. If you are having trouble eating due to morning sickness and suffering from exhaustion due to hormonal swings this is important to know!

In order to get the most punch from the foods you eat you should focus on eating those that provide you with more energy, longer. That way when you can’t eat as much as you did your baby isn’t going to suffer. Sweet potatoes and real whole grain and whole wheat products are your best choices, as well as fruits such as grapes and bananas. Bear in mind that just because a package says “whole wheat”, “whole grain” or “multigrain” that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.

Yes, this is false advertising (sort of) but it’s important to know. A food is only required to have a very small amount of whole grain in order to claim the title legitimately. It’s not that there aren’t whole grains in it, it’s that it’s not all whole grain. There are usually plenty of processed and refined ingredients included as well.

Are you eating the right kinds of protein? Like carbohydrates there are good proteins and there are so-so proteins. When you’re looking for proteins that will give you the most bang for your buck you should focus on lean meats, eggs, beef and beans. The less processed it is, the better it is for you. Does that mean you can’t eat those chicken nuggets? Certainly not. After all, when the sweet and sour sauce calls…It does mean that you shouldn’t allow processed meats to become the dominant protein source in your diet.

Is it organic? Organic foods are usually more expensive but are more healthy than their counterparts. Organic foods, as defined by the Healthy Children Project, are those that are grown without “pesticides or synthetic (or sewage-based) fertilizers for plant materials and hormones and antibiotics for animals, does not allow genetic engineering or the use of radiation, and emphasizes the utilization of renewable resources as well as the conservation of land and water.”

If your budget won’t stretch to include an all-organic diet (unfortunately, some of those products came with a pretty hefty shipping fee) attempt to focus on the foods listed by the government as the best to be bought organically. These foods are those most likely to be contaminated or high in pesticides and include apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, raspberries, spinach and strawberries.

If you are concerned about the foods you are eating (and not buying organically) peas, pineapples, papayas, onions, mangos, kiwi, sweet corn, cauliflower, broccoli, bananas, avocados and asparagus have been judged the least likely to be contaminated or contain high amounts of pesticides.

What kind of fat is it? Your body needs certain types of fat, but trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil on the ingredients list) is difficult for your body to deal with and provides you with no nutritional value. Saturated fats are less healthy than unsaturated, are found in animal products such as butter and are best enjoyed in limited quantities.

Caloric Intake During Pregnancy

The first thing you must understand is that pregnancy is not the time to be counting calories. If you are on a diet that involves severely restricting your caloric intake get off it. Right now. For the next nine months you have permission to not suffer for beauty. Not only is restricting calories not going to result in weight loss (you’re going to gain some as the baby grows whether you like it or not) it could potentially harm your baby.

Not getting enough calories during pregnancy can lead to the baby not having what it needs to develop properly. Low birth weight is a common complication, as is poor fetal development. The baby may have any number of deficiency-associated birth defects. In short, it is vitally important that when you are pregnant you get enough to eat. You can burn it all off after the baby is born, although to be honest if you have time to worry about your weight you will be handling new motherhood much better than most!

The first thing you want to do is calculate your pre-pregnancy Recommended Daily Caloric Intake. If you are a health buff or have been living on a terminal diet you may already know this number. If you do not you can visit one of the following sites to figure it out, or consult with your physician. (this site will also provide practical advice about estimating caloric intake for the rest of your pregnancy, although it doesn’t take into account weight gain or loss.)

For the first three months of your pregnancy you actually do not need to consume any extra calories. Your pre-pregnancy calorie consumption will be perfectly adequate for your baby’s growth and development as long as you are not dieting. If you are dieting, stop! This is the number of calories (roughly) that you want to eat in a day.

As you go into your second and third trimester you should increase your daily caloric intake by 300 calories. This will help to compensate for the increasing rate of your baby’s growth. If your pre-pregnancy caloric intake was 1800 calories you should consume 2100 calories a day. If it was 1400 calories you should consume 1700 calories, and so on and so forth. Again, this is not the time to try and lose weight. Do not omit these extra calories in favor of allowing your body to burn them instead. This is not healthy for you or your baby, and if you are breastfeeding you will quickly work these calories back off.

The number of calories you need during pregnancy is going to vary if you were not a healthy weight when you became pregnant. Women who were obese may be told to consume fewer calories to prevent excessive weight gain, which would place extra strain on the heart and lungs and increase the likelihood of blood pressure related problems during pregnancy. In this case this is a fine time to diet, as long as you are following your doctor’s advice. The healthier you are, the healthier your baby is going to be.

On the flip side of that coin, if you were underweight at the beginning of your pregnancy or have not gained what the doctor considers to be an adequate amount of weight since becoming pregnant you may be told to increase your caloric intake by more than 300. The baby needs to be able to take enough calories away from your body to grow, and if you don’t have any to spare either because you aren’t eating enough or your body is burning everything that you eat they are going to suffer.

Relief for Common Pregnancy Discomforts

Being pregnant is no piece of cake! From the first spells of nausea before you even realize that you are pregnant to the swollen ankles of the third trimester, there are plenty of uncomfortable symptoms that go along with pregnancy. While it is impossible to get rid of them all, there are a few tricks to making these pregnancy discomforts easier to manage. We´ll take a look at a few of the most common ones right here in this article.

Morning sickness is one of the first and most prevalent complaints that women have in pregnancy. While a very few do not suffer from nausea, the majority have at least three months of it and some go right through the nine months feeling ill.

Pregnancy-induced nausea can be quelled to some extent by sipping ginger ale and having soda crackers on hand to eat right before getting out of bed. An empty stomach seems to cause more nausea, so if you get some crackers into you before you start moving around, sometimes the nausea will go down. Many women find that they can’t even get up without vomiting, though. You can talk to your doctor about other nausea solutions.

Once your pregnancy gets far enough along that your center of gravity has shifted, aches and pains tend to set in. Most of these are caused by stretching ligaments and muscles in order to accommodate the growing baby inside, but some are just the baby pressing on nerves, particularly if you have shooting pains down the backs of your legs. Having a midwife gently encourage the baby to move a bit can make your pregnancy much more comfortable.

Other pregnancy pains caused by the baby’s position can be remedied by changing your own position. Doing the downward facing dog yoga position is ideal for shifting the baby into a more comfy position. You can also just get on all fours for a few minutes each day to get the baby to move around a bit and hopefully relieve some of the pregnancy pain you are experiencing.

Backaches are another thing entirely, caused by carrying all that weight out front! The best way to treat this pregnancy problem is to get your partner to give you a very firm back massage. Support yourself against a wall or bend over a desk and let him really get the heels of his hands into the sore spots. You might need to repeat this each day until the baby is born. Proper posture can help prevent this common pregnancy pain.

Swollen feet are a major problem during the third trimester of pregnancy. Excess fluid builds up in the feet making them puff up painfully. Sometimes this swelling goes all the way up to the knees. If you notice that your face and hands are also retaining fluid, this could be a sign of problems in your pregnancy and you should see a doctor. Feet however, are a very common pregnancy complaint and can be helped by laying with your feet propped up higher than your head, or sit with them in a cool tub of water.

The most common pregnancy complaints usually have a solution. You don’t need to suffer more than necessary, so if you don’t find the solution to your problem here, go ahead and ask your doctor or midwife for help.

Recommended Prenatal Vitamins

Even those women who pay attention to the nutritional needs of their body will want to consider the extra requirements necessary before and during pregnancy. Many obstetricians and health professionals will prescribe prenatal vitamins for their patients at an early visit, or even at a prenatal visit. There are many different formulas for prenatal vitamins, both prescribed and over-the-counter types, with prescribed formulas generally superior to those purchased over-the-counter.

If you decide to select your own prenatal vitamins formula there are certain standards which you should look for in the product you purchase.

VITAMIN A- The beta-carotene form is the safest version of this supplement. This is a vitamin where more is NOT better. Do not take more than 4-5,000 IU of Vitamin A daily. Amounts of 10,000 or more have been shown to have toxicity.

VITAMIN D – Vitamin D is another supplement where too much is toxic. Keep your daily intake at 400 IU or less.

FOLIC ACID – The B vitamin may be one of the more important supplements for fetal development. Any formula should contain 800 to 1000 mcg of folic acid.

CALCIUM – A supplement that contains 2-300 mg calcium is just a start toward reaching the recommended 1200 mg daily. However, anything beyond 250 mg of calcium (or 25 mg of magnesium) should not be taken at the same time as supplemental iron since both calcium and magnesium interfere with the absorption of the iron. A two hour gap in time between taking the iron supplement and the calcium/magnesium supplement will allow for maximum assimilation.

VITAMIN C – Most formulas contain at least 70 mg of this essential vitamin. There are no known side effects from taking a higher dose.

THIAMINE, RIBOFLAVIN, PYRIDOXINE, NIACINAMIDE, AND VITAMIN B-12 – Most formulas contain two to three times the recommended daily allowance of these prenatal vitamins and there are no known toxicity levels.

VITAMIN E – 10 mg of Vitamin is the minimum amount which should appear in the supplement formula. Most formulas contain at least two to three times the RDA. Vitamin E has no known toxicity level.

ZINC and IRON – You should be getting at least 15 mg of zinc and 30 mg elemental iron. In addition, a supplement that contains zinc needs additional copper. Both copper and zinc are needed to assist in the assimilation of iron. Zinc is also required when the calcium supplement reaches 1200 mg or more.

Although trace minerals are important in nutritional health, few if any prenatal vitamins formulas contain any of the trace minerals. Making sure that prenatal supplement formulas are balanced to each other and contain all the essential nutrients for mother and infant health is a difficult task. You are aided in your attempt though, with the availability of a wide variety of healthy food choices. That is the importance of eating healthfully and using the vitamin and mineral supplements as extra nutritional coverage.

These prenatal vitamins are sometimes available in liquid form for those who have difficulty swallowing a capsule, but you should be aware that much of the vitamins taken in liquid form will be lost in the digestive process. One other point to remember is to be sure to take the supplements with food or drink. Some of the vitamins taken on an empty stomach can cause unpleasant aftertaste and the assimilation rate is much higher when it is taken with food or drink.

Natural Depression Treatments

Depression is a problem that affects millions of people worldwide and can range from being fairly mild to completely devastating. While there are a variety of drugs available to help control the symptoms of this disease, they often have nasty side effects and can be hard to tolerate for many sufferers. On top of this, antidepressants often carry a stigma with them, causing users to suffer harassment and possibly lose potential jobs.

To avoid the problems associated with poor mental health and the side effects of traditional medicine, many depression sufferers decide to go the natural route. They look for alternative treatments to use in place of regular pills.

Natural depression treatments have several advantages to them. One is that they tend to be cheaper than the average antidepressant. Also, they are available without a prescription, which means instead of having to see your doctor for a refill, you can simply head to the nearest natural supplement or health store to get what you need, depending on the treatment you have chosen.

One of the most renowned natural antidepressant is St. John’s Wort. This herb has been used for centuries to treat mild to severe depression, ranking in studies on the same level as Prozac. It comes in capsules, tablets or in a tea. The tea is probably the weakest of the three choices, but it is easy enough to replace your morning Earl Grey with a cup of depression treatment! The downside to this natural treatment is that it can affect your oral birth control and several women have found that the Pill is no longer effective when taking this herb.

Ginseng and Ginkgo are two other herbs that have been proven to relieve depression symptoms, particularly in the elderly. They can be used separately, but are best together. The herbs come in capsule or tablet form as well and are pleasant smelling as well as fast working. They may not be quite as effective as St. John’s Wort, so this natural therapy is better used for mild depression.

Other natural remedies for depression include an amino acid called 5-HTP, which helps your body produce more serotonin, the happy hormone. Since most antidepressants help boost serotonin levels (low levels have been linked to depression), it makes sense that 5-HTP would work just as well. This treatment is effective, but made more so by combining it with St. John’s Wort.

Depression has also been linked in some cases to a Vitamin B deficiency, so this is another natural treatment. When a deficiency is indeed the cause of the depression, then taking a supplement and increasing intake of foods that contain the missing nutrient should help clear up the problem. It is a good idea to check with your doctor on this one first since this may or may not be your particular problem.

Antidepressants are often considered to be a last resort and many people who suffer from depression would much rather take a natural supplement than admit to friends and family that they are suffering from a mental illness. Natural treatments have become more and more popular over the years as people become more familiar with their options and realize that the side effects associated with typical antidepressant medications do not need to be tolerated in every case.

Get Your Kids to Exercise

Today’s children tend to be grossly overweight in many areas. While steps are being made to prevent this epidemic from continuing, the real battle is on the home front. If you can give your kids healthy, low-fat meals and get them to exercise, you shouldn’t have any problems with overweight youngsters. The big problem is how to get them moving.

Kids love to play and if you can have them play active games, they will automatically exercise! There is no need to force pushups and squats on your children, they don’t need to follow a typical adult workout routine (although many kids enjoy dancing along with exercise dance videos). Just being outside, running around the back yard is perfect for them.

If you don’t have a good yard to play in, you can make a point of taking the kids to a nearby park or playground. The toys on a playground are built for exercise and your kids will automatically start climbing and running and sliding when they have the opportunity. However, even in the absence of cool playground equipment, there are a few ways to encourage exercise and active movement.

Balls are the perfect prop for getting kids to exercise. They can throw it, kick it, and bounce it, whatever they wish. And you need no other equipment. Kids can easily make up their own games or set up goals, marked by rocks or jackets and play their very own version of soccer. Smaller children will simply enjoy running after the ball as it rolls away!

If there are hills near where you live, introduce your children to the joys of rolling down a hill. You remember the game, you lay flat at the top of a hill and then start to roll down it. At first, you need to push yourself over, but if the hill is steep enough, you just pick up speed and tumble over and over down the hill. It is wonderful fun, but the exercise part comes when the kids have to climb back up the hill again to try again.

If you have three or more children together, organize a game of tag. This gets everyone running around and laughing and is a great hit among younger kids. There are other versions of tag as well, including freeze tag and TV tag. See if your children can’t come up with more ideas.

A dog offers endless possibilities for adding exercise to your daily routine. While you shouldn’t get a puppy for that reason alone, it is certainly a big help. The whole family can participate in walking the dog around the block, plus children will enjoy playing and rolling around on the floor with their new pet, all great forms of exercise.

Kids these days don’t get enough exercise and the best way to motivate them to move is to set a good example. If you are constantly on the move, walking and exercising from the time the kids are small, you shouldn’t have a problem. The trouble begins when kids are allowed to sit on the couch and watch TV all day!