Of course, some women do crave healthy foods during pregnancy. Sour apples or lemons, red meat, and peaches are a few examples of common cravings that probably indicate a need for the nutrients these foods contain. Acidic, vitamin C-rich fruits help your body to absorb iron; red meat is an excellent source of iron and essential amino acids and is often craved by even avowed vegetarians during pregnancy; and peaches are a very rich source of beta-carotene.
While women who eat with abandon during pregnancy have a better chance of getting everything they and their babies need simply because they are taking in larger servings of a wider variety of foods, they often get too many antinutrients ("bad" fats, additives, and sugar) and not enough of the nutrients their bodies really need to build a baby. They may end up overweight yet undernourished.
Other women go to the opposite extreme, eating exactly what they believe to be the ideal pregnancy diet, restricting calories to control their weight gain, and valiantly fighting off their worst cravings or finding "acceptable" substitutes (which, according to many sources, means finding low-fat or nonfat versions of fatty foods). If women follow the typical guidelines, they will probably get good enough nutrition to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, but chances are good that they will have some sort of significant deficit postpartum. The ideal pregnancy diet falls somewhere between these two extremes.
What about pregnancy weight gain? How much is too much? This varies from person to person. A woman who is very thin when she becomes pregnant might gain more than a woman who is heavier to begin with, and she may need that extra fat for breastfeeding. Your doctor or midwife should be able to tell whether your weight gain is excessive. It is highly unlikely, however, that you will gain too much weight as long as you eat according to the guidelines they can be used prenatally as well as postpartum.
Mothers who opt for a low-fat diet 20 percent or less of calories from fat in an effort to stave off excessive weight gain or to be healthier at any point during pregnancy are risking toxemia, growth problems, behavioral or neurological problems, and prematurity in their babies. Why? Because a diet low in fat is also low in the essential fatty acids that support the development of the baby's nervous system and the continued health of the mother's nervous system. As you will see later, essential fats also support a healthy pregnancy and a timely birth in more ways than you might expect. The typical low-fat diet is also lacking in the amino acids your body needs to build your baby's tissues, and tends to include too many processed foods made from sugar and flour.