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Eating Carbs During Pregnancy

Ah, carbs—the the devil of so many diets. Should you avoid them when you're pregnant? Here's the deal.  
ByDebra Goldman, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
April 28, 2017
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Pregnancy is not the time to go low-carb. Carbohydrates give you energy and can be an important source of  fiber (you need all you can get right now!) and other nutrients. In fact, about half your calories should come from carbs.

Carbs to avoid

But all carbs are not created equal. Some carbs, called simple carbs, are quickly converted to sugar in the body. They provide a quick burst of energy, with not much in the way of sticking power. Complex carbs, which include whole-grains such as oatmeal and bulgur, legumes (such as dried beans) and starchy vegetables, take longer to break down in the body and provide energy over time. They also include fiber.

To avoid simple carbs, stay away from processed and refined foods, since they contain more of them and offer less nutrition. This includes white bread, white rice, chips and candy.

Carbs to choose

Instead, go for whole grain bread, brown rice, baked potatoes (skin on) and fresh fruit. (Note: Fresh fruit contains a lot of simple carbs, in the form of naturally occurring sugar, but it also contains a lot of fiber and essential nutrients.)

As a rule of thumb, “the more complex and whole grain the carbohydrate is, the better,” says Deborah Goldman, MD, an ob-gyn at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island. “The more complex the carbohydrate, the more whole grain it is, the slower your body absorbs it. That will help your blood sugar levels remain consistent, instead of bumping up and down.”

How many carbs to eat

Pregnant women should eat 9 to 11 servings of carbohydrates per day. (A serving size of carbs is smaller than you probably think: 1/3 cup of rice counts as a serving. So does 1/2 of an English muffin or 1 ounce of cereal.) Ideally, about half of your carb intake should be whole grains.

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