While the role of maternal nutrition in fetal development is being explored, experts agree that a balanced diet is Mom's best hope for the perfect womb. A colorful array of fruits and vegetables and whole grains like brown rice and whole-wheat breads provide a full range of phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Adding lean protein such as skinless chicken, top round cuts of beef, tofu, and fish to every meal and a sprinkling of healthful fats like olive oil or nuts will help keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. "Look for different tastes," advises Barker. He points out that the French, who have low rates of heart disease, buy different varieties of oranges daily just to get a sweeter or tarter sensation. To cover all the bases, women should also take prenatal supplements containing folic acid and vitamin B12 starting three months before pregnancy.
Eating well has an added benefit: fewer extra pregnancy pounds. New evidence suggests that obese women need to gain only a handful of pounds, if that, and that moderately overweight women probably should gain toward the lower end of the 15-to-25-pound range that's recommended. A St. Louis University study found that when compared with those who gained 15 pounds, overweight women who gained 25 pounds or more had more than twice the likelihood of giving birth to large babies, who are at increased risk of becoming obese and diabetic adults; those who gained less than 15 pounds had a 40 percent lower risk. Study author and St. Louis professor of obstetrics and gynecology Thomas Myles thinks the weight gain guidelines soon will recognize that less is more.