Planning to have a baby? Congratulations! You do not need to start eating for two before your pregnancy, but thinking for two now is wise.

Careful attention to diet in the months preceding conception may lessen the risk of birth defects in your baby, according to many researchers.
Quiz – Are you eating right for two?

If you want to see how your diet stacks up to the challenge of pregnancy, answer the following questions.

Do you eat calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt three or four times a day?
Are fruits and vegetables a mainstay of your diet?
Do you stay away from alcoholic beverages?
Do you avoid taking vitamin supplements, other than a multi-vitamin?
If you eat or drink caffeinated products (such as coffee, tea or chocolate), do you limit your consumption to no more than twice a day?
Is your weight within the acceptable range for your height?
If you answered “Yes” to all of these questions, you are one step closer to a healthier pregnancy. If you continue your healthy ways, the dietary transitions needed during pregnancy will be easier for you.

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, do not panic. Like buying a house or finding a new job, having a baby is a big step that requires some learning and planning on your part. By thinking ahead about the nutritional needs you will have during pregnancy, you can be prepared to meet them even before you become pregnant.

The Importance of Nutrition
At no other time in your life is nutritional health more important than during pregnancy. Fetal growth and development occur rapidly, and changes in your diet — both positive and negative — may affect your growing baby’s health.First of all, if you are overweight, try shedding the excess pounds gradually before pregnancy. If you can do that, it will lessen your risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes, and other maternal complications. If you are underweight, try gaining a few pounds by loading up on healthful foods.

Second, be sure to schedule regular prenatal visits and medical check-ups during your pregnancy, to ensure that there is no problem with your weight, diet or other nutritional factors that could affect you pregnancy.

Your Optimal Weight Gain
What is your Body Mass Index?

Not sure what it is or how to do it? Follow these simple steps:

Multiply your weight in pounds by 703.
Determine your height in inches.
Square that number (multiply it by itself).
Divide weight multiplied by 703, by height squared.
For example, if you weigh 120 pounds and are 5 feet 5 inches tall, you would calculate your BMI this way:

120 x 703 = 84360
5 feet 5 inches = 65 inches
65 x65 = 4225
84360 divided by 4225 = 20
This number is your Body Mass Index (BMI).

BMI is a measurement that evaluates your pre-pregnancy weight status. Your weight status at the start of pregnancy plays an important role in determining your optimal weight gain during pregnancy, as shown in the accompanying chart.

If your BMI is… then you are considered… and you should gain…

<19.8 underweight 28-40 lbs. 19.8-26 average weight 25-35 lbs. 26.1-29 overweight 15-25 lbs.>29 obese <15 lbs. If you are expecting twins, these calculations may not apply. Generally, the optimal weight gain during twin gestation is 35-45 pounds. Source: Institute of Medicine. Nutrition During Pregnancy. Wash., D.C. National Academy Press, 1990. Gaining the proper amount of weight during pregnancy is one of the most important steps you need to take. The best indicator of a newborn's health status is birth weight. Mothers who gain less than the recommended weight may risk delivering low birth weight babies (less than 5.5 pounds). Small babies may have more complications than normal weight babies, including breathing difficulties and greater susceptibility to infections.

What To Eat
Fats and Sweets

Use sparingly.
Meat or Proteins

Meat, fish, turkey, veal, peanut butter, tofu, seeds, nuts, soybeans, eggs
3 servings daily
Fruits

Fresh, canned, or frozen fruit, or 100 percent juice
2-4 servings daily
Vegetables

Fresh, canned or frozen vegetables
3-5 servings daily
Milk
Low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream
3-5 servings daily
Grains

Whole grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice
6-11 servings daily

Just as there are a variety of foods that you should make a point of including in your diet during pregnancy, there are also those which you should be careful not to include.