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A Weighty Issue

Avoiding pound pitfalls

There are two critical times to focus on what you're eating during pregnancy, says Mary Jane Lewitt, a certified nurse midwife in Atlanta and a spokesperson for the American College of Nurse-Midwives. The first is early in your first trimester, when you should evaluate your eating habits with your health care practitioner and figure out what you need to work on. The second is at the halfway point to determine if you're where you should be weight-wise and to make changes if you're not. Beware of these common pitfalls along the way:

Stay trim in your first trimester. As noted earlier, little weight gain is necessary early on. Stick to small increases in dietary protein at this stage -- only about 10 to 15 extra grams are required during pregnancy, for a total of about 60 grams a day. Three ounces of lean meat provides 15 to 20 grams, for instance, as does about 2 cups of milk or a cup of yogurt together with an ounce of cheese. If you balloon by 10 pounds or more before 20 weeks, it's probably not what you're eating but how much, notes Dr. Ricciotti. "Women get a lot of distorted messages about eating for two. If you're gaining too quickly, your doctor may suggest that you reduce your portion sizes by 10 to 15 percent," she says. "Focus on getting the recommended servings of fruits and veggies so you're filling up on healthy, low-calorie choices. It's not the end of the world if you gain 10 pounds in one month, but it becomes more worrisome if you do it again the next month."

Read recommendations carefully. No matter what the charts say, there's no need to force yourself to eat more than you feel comfortable with, especially when heartburn sets in. Nine servings of grains sounds like an awful lot, until you realize that a typical bowl of cereal is the equivalent of two to three servings. Don't forget that many foods can be counted as more than one food group: A chicken-and-broccoli stir-fry includes both vegetable and protein servings -- and grains, too, if you eat it with brown rice.