Sunlight It takes about 55,000 extra calories to make a healthy baby. That might seem like a lot, but it’s only 300 extra calories a day (the equivalent of a glass of low-fat milk, a slice of bread, and an apple), and that’s only in the last two trimesters.Calorie needs don’t budge an inch in the first trimester when your baby grows no longer than a green bean.

Your vitamin and mineral needs, however, have skyrocketed. For example, folic acid, the B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects, is more important than ever. That means: 1) focus on “real” foods – colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nonfat milk, 2) little room for extra chocolate cake, and 3) take a moderate-dose multi vitamin AND mineral that contains at least 400mcg of folic acid to cover your bases on the days when you don’t eat perfectly.

Protein-rich foods, like extra-lean meat, chicken without the skin, fish, or cooked dried beans and peas, are important sources of iron. This mineral is one of the most difficult nutrients to get enough of during pregnancy, yet is critical for maintaining normal oxygen supply to the baby, for normal development and growth, and for preventing premature delivery. Make sure you include several iron-rich foods in the daily diet, cook in cast iron pots, and take a multiple vitamin and mineral that includes iron.

Finally, this is not the time to experiment with unbalanced diets. You need 40+ nutrients in the proper proportion to build a healthy baby today and in the future. The developing baby is much more sensitive to the mother’s nutritional status than previously thought, and some health consequences don’t show up until much later in life. So skip the low-carb or food-combining diets and stick to tried-and-true healthy eating.

Photo credit: Marta Manso via Compfight