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Protein Matters

During pregnancy and lactation, your need for protein significantly increases. Protein is necessary for development of all new cells. For the duration of pregnancy, experts recommend that protein intake be a minimum of 60 grams per day. Women having twins or a multiple pregnancy need even more. Protein is required for the physical growth and cellular development of your baby. It is also required for the placenta, amniotic tissues, and maternal tissues. Further, a woman's blood volume increases by 50% during pregnancy, and protein is needed to produce new blood cells and circulating proteins.

Lactation similarly affects protein, increasing needs by up to 20 grams over nonpregnant women. Protein is utilized to produce breast milk and nourish the growing baby. Altogether, pregnancy and lactation significantly impact protein demands.

Data show that most women living in developed countries usually consume greater than 60 grams of protein daily, so meeting this minimum is usually not a struggle. However, women with severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy (hyperemesis), urinary protein losses (preeclampsia), or those who follow strict vegetarian diets are at higher risk. Since inadequate protein during pregnancy and lactation jeopardizes the growth and development of your baby, it is important to review your diet to assure adequacy. Poor protein intake during pregnancy increases the risk for having a low birth weight infant and, a recent study suggests, negative effects on fetal brain development.

If you do not eat enough protein normally, finding ways to boost your intake is important. If you know the right choices to make, a little goes a long way. Protein rich foods are identified in this list. For the most part, these food categories are included: milk and other dairy foods, soy products, legumes, nuts, eggs, meat, fish and poultry. The foods below do provide calories, but they are primarily valued in your diet for their protein. Protein is also found in whole grains and vegetables and, while not 'high' protein foods, they do contribute to your daily protein total. Women who follow vegetarian diets should also review the Important Tips For Vegetarians.

Protein Boosters
Serving
Size Described
Approximate Calories
Approximate Protein
(gm)
Cheese
1 ounce
100
7
Cottage Cheese (whole milk)
1/4 cup
55
7
Dry Milk Powder (Lowfat)
1/3 cup
100
10
Yogurt (plain, nonfat)
1 cup
100
10
Lowfat Milk
1 cup
130
8
Whole Milk
1 cup
150
8
Chocolate Milk (whole)
1 cup
180
8
Baked Beans
1/2 cup
200
8
Roasted Soy Nuts
1 ounce
150
10
Peanuts
1/4 cup
210
10
Almonds
1/4 cup
200
6
Black Walnuts
1/4 cup
190
8
Brazil Nuts
1/4 cup
230
5
Tofu, Soybean Curd
2 ounces
50
5
Kidney Beans
1/3 cup
70
5
Fish and Shellfish
1 ounce
35
7
Meats and Poultry
1 ounce
50-75
7
Processed Luncheon Meats
1 ounce
75-100
7
Meat Spreads (chopped, pureed)
1 ounce
70
7
Egg Salad (1 egg)
2.5 ounce
230
7
Chopped Egg (cooked)
1 egg
75
6
Egg Substitute (pasteurized)
1/4 cup
80
7
Deviled Egg
1 egg
120
8
Instant Breakfast (powdered mix)
1 envelope
125
7
Instant Breakfast with Whole Milk added
1 cup
225
14
Protein Supplement (milk based, powder)
1 ounce
100
7

Protein Supplement (soy based, powder)
(products vary)

2/3 ounce
75
11

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